Florida
by Lauren Groff
Hardcover- $17.39

FINALIST FOR THE 2018 NATIONAL BOOK AWARD 

WINNER OF THE 2019 STORY PRIZE

ONE OF NPR'S BEST BOOKS OF 2018

The universally acclaimed return of ...

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  "I found it bleak" by thewanderingjew (see profile) 06/24/18

Florida, Lauren Groff author and reader
Generally, I always read a book or listen to a book, to its conclusion. Sometimes, the reader can even make a book I don’t love, one I will listen to anyway, hoping for some redeeming feature, but this one, read by the author, made me give up after listening to more than two thirds of it. I was surprised by my reaction to the book, so I looked into other reviews and found that mine is in the minority. Usually, I check out many, including Amazon’s reviews, after I have written down my thoughts, but because of their change in policy, requiring purchases of a certain amount before a “free review” can be posted, there were fewer from more ordinary readers than I expected. Most of the professional reviews are very positive and I had the thought that there might be a bit too much honor among thieves. Perhaps, however, the print book is better. I found the author’s reading of this book disappointing. I thought that water would boil faster and constantly had the urge to nudge her to increase her speed. I also felt that she was too close to the tales to tell them without over emoting and being somewhat melodramatic in her presentation. Sometimes, my attention waned.
As a disclaimer, let me declare that I live in Florida for part of the year, so my feelings may be a bit defensive. I do not find it as formidable, dark and or threatening a place as the characters in Groff’s stories do, or perhaps, as she herself does, since she lives there, as well. I actually find Florida a pleasant place to live in, with many nice people from varied backgrounds who enjoy the year round sunshine. It makes most people happy and they smile much of the time.
The author’s stories make Florida sound like a snake pit filled with desperate people who don’t seem stable or fit, kind or welcoming to strangers. They seem to be shallow people who make foolish choices that often go awry or backfire entirely. Every story involves some kind of a threatening situation. Each character or setting harbored some kind of menace. There seemed to be danger lurking everywhere, as in the weather, the people, the communities, the schools, the families, and even the animals; she left no stone unturned regarding injustice and inequity. It felt like she was trying to say whatever could go wrong, would go wrong.
My Florida experience is much happier and is filled with more sunshine than clouds and danger. Although the author was not political in her stories, there is a subtle indication that many of the issues included in the liberal agenda were failing in the state of Florida. The emphasis on hurricanes seems to portray the state as suffering from the devastating effects of climate change. There is a stress on income inequality in some of the stories, and of course, there are immigration issues and racism in many places. Children are abused and abandoned; communities are gentrified, which locks out the very people who now live there happily. She seems to prefer decaying communities for their diversity, regardless of the danger in some, to what she portrays as “white” gated communities which she seems to scorn for their safety and lack of diversity. It felt as if she thought that the Occupy Movement and others like it, with their drugs, crime and rape, are a positive influence on a community, while upward mobility only points out income disparity and is negative, rather than something we all should aspire to instead, as a positive move.
Although I was really looking forward to this book, having enjoyed Fates and Furies, I just could not complete it. There were snakes lurking everywhere, dangerous storms were always brewing, hate hid behind many doors, many men portrayed had lurid thoughts about women, and the women seemed to be loose and irresponsible with their children and their morals. Even the dogs were mean!
There were so many stories that were rife with danger, either real or imaginary, that I was turned off because of the overriding feeling of bleakness. Perhaps the author was intending to show the way the Yin and the Yang could merge, altering our behavior to reach some kind of a better balance in society, but she seems to have leaned too far to the dark side to accomplish that, for me.

 
  "" by Ljwagoner (see profile) 07/06/18

Love these stories! Beautifully & smartly written, these stories deal with true thoughts & emotion that reach us where it’s dark & unknown- thoughts & emotions that we ourselves may have but just don’t want to think about or admit. Favorite stories: Dogs Go Wolf and Flower Hunters. The audio version was excellent.

 
  "" by [email protected] (see profile) 07/25/18

 
  "" by [email protected] (see profile) 10/14/18

 
  "" by [email protected] (see profile) 11/15/18

 
  "" by KRoby (see profile) 03/26/19

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