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Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Florida: Stories

I loved Lauren Groff's Fates and Furies (which I have et to finish, years later!), which I'm not sure I ever blogged about, so I requested her new book of short stories, Florida, as soon as I could. 

I wasn’t entirely sold by the first story — that of a suburban mom who walks her anger off for hours every night, watching her neighborhood change and shift throughout the seasons. But the second story brought me in a bit — that of Jude and his life’s tale in 14 pages. This story was fascinating, in that Groff takes you from Jude’s childhood to the day he sends his daughter off to college. It’s a wild ride, one that manages to break your heart while also being somewhat bare bones. It speaks to Groff’s astounding storytelling, that she can speed through a life and you feel like you know him intimately.

“Dogs Go Wolf,” the third story, is what completely sold me. The tale of two young girls left to fend for themselves on an island, alone, was gripping and jaw-dropping. Groff has this ability to create fully formed characters within a single page, so that when you realize the tragedy of their existence you can’t turn back and in-know it. I was both intrigued and devastated by these two girls, hoping for them that their mother wouldn’t be the jerk that she was and that she would come back for them. It wasn’t meant to be, and we as the readers are better off for that. We leave with more than we came with. 

Through the story of the woman with a head injury camping with her two sons, we move into another one of Groff’s masterpieces, a story in which a woman opts to ride out a hurricane at home, only to be visited by the great dead loves of her past. This story was surprisingly moving and I found my throat catching in moments. It is a little life-flashing-before-your-eyes but with an honest twist, as there are no holds barred between her and her ghosts. 

The next two stories were equally arresting — one of a pair of friends on holiday in France, where secrets peek around every corner, and the other a woman on annual holiday in Brazil in which her mettle is tested by a storm. As the stories progress, Groff’s writing continues to make its mark as she weaves the tales of these women who are three-dimensional and full of life and love and missteps and small triumphs. You may think you know what is going to happen, but Groff will surprise you with what you least expect, and boy, is that a feat. 

As I rinsed out the last of her stories, I put down this book better than when I came to it, and for me that is a mark of the beauty of this work. I need to turn back to Fates and Furies next, this time with a fresh appreciation for Groff and her storytelling. 

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