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The Sunshine State Doesn’t Seem So Bright: Breaking Down ’Florida‘


As you all know (hopefully), the GA Upper School was assigned the short story collection Florida for the summer read. Many students weren’t familiar with the book, and Brunswick has an entirely different assignment, so GA really didn’t know what they were in for. If you want a refresher on the book, or are curious for my opinion, read more below about the storms, snakes, and sinkholes of everyday life in Florida.

Quick recap: There are eleven chapters in Florida with possibly 10 completely different sets of characters with their own stories. I say “possibly” because I’m not entirely sure (there is one recurring character), but I promise to elaborate later without any bias. In every chapter, all of the characters face the grave dangers of their surroundings. Whether the problem is animals or natural disasters, in the 1800s or modern day, with company or alone, they try to survive in Florida.

Now, for my opinion. All of the chapters are unique and descriptive; they hook you and don’t let you go until you are done. The first chapter was a little slow and challenging to get through, but it puts you in the right mindset for the dark tone in the rest. Remember, this is the chapter where the troubled mother and wife goes on walks and carefully observes her neighbors. The whole book is depressing and gloomy, but the writing techniques are on point. No wonder it was a National Book Award finalist! Now for the negative side of Florida. I think it is very hard to understand a book completely if you don’t know the characters well enough. I understand that might give the book a little bit of mystery to it, but I didn’t know the characters well enough to feel any empathy toward them. I didn’t even know most of their names!

Here’s a recap of my favorite chapter, At the Round Earth’s Imagined Corners. We meet Jude, whose father purposely fills the house with living snakes and ultimately breaks apart the family. The mother moves away with Jude, but he gets dragged back to his father’s house. Soon enough, Jude’s father was killed by a snake. Jude learned a lesson: Even the things that love you can kill you. Eventually, both parents die, and Jude is left alone on the streets. One night, he is walking clumsily through the streets, and meets the love of his life after getting run over by a bread truck. They have a beautiful daughter. Years later, he wakes up one day to find himself completely deaf, and while his wife and daughter are away, he ends up talking to his father’s ghost in the middle of a lake filled with alligators! Given his childhood traumas, how will he handle this situation?

Rating: I give Florida by Lauren Groff 3.5 stars out of 5, because it was hard to follow each character and their journey throughout the book. In my opinion, it is very difficult to keep track of characters when most of them don’t have names. It was interesting that only some of the characters in some chapters have names while others were kept incognito. This was especially difficult when the recurring character, the conflicted mother, came up. You never knew when it really was her! However, most of the short stories were intriguing and the book itself was hard to put down.

You will like this book if you enjoy dark and mysterious books with a little bit of psychology in them. It is interesting to see how nature somehow manages to intrude on people’s everyday lives. If you did like Florida, Lauren Groff has another book called The Monsters of Templeton. Other books similar to Florida are The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, The Candy House by Jennifer Egan, and The Summer of Moonlight Secrets by Danette Haworth.

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