Review | Lauren Groff’s Florida
By SARAH TELESCA | August 10, 2018
Lauren Groff’s fifth novel Florida cleverly meanders through compelling vignettes of characters’ lives; it braids together narratives of lonely young women, truth-bound mothers and pensive children, their thoughts, travels, and hallucinations lying cohesively side-by-side in the marshy peninsula of the infamous state.
Beginning with a mother who quietly rails against her life as a Northerner-cum-Floridian, we then meet a young boy whose father’s scholarly obsession with snakes rules their lives. We turn from writhing, breathless central Florida to a prickly island hosting two young sisters who have been accidentally abandoned by a worthy but fun-chasing mother.
The Sunshine State periodically takes on the role of a secondary character, the baseline commonality of a few women who journey to or live in France, idealistically imagining themselves as more in-tune with the easy French countryside or chilly gull-streaked seaside towns, but find themselves coming to terms with the truth that the harshness and un-lovability of the saw palm-ridden state is a mangrove root tangle that cages their hearts. A few Florida women in loving yet settled marriages are in love with long-dead male writers, using them as subjects of study and studies of escapism.
Readers of Groff’s previous works will not be surprised at her beautiful, thought-prodding sentences that lead us confidently closer to each of the book’s subjects. She crafts stories filled simultaneously with love, irreversible loss, bitterness and youthful exuberance and querying; the combination of which heat like a stagnant pool and glow like a sunburn, at once fiery and painful, yet satisfying to see develop.