Florida by Lauren Groff [in Booklist]
Lauren Groff (Fates and Furies, 2015) lives in Florida and is married with two sons – not unlike five of the protagonists among the 11 stories here. Unlike with her previous titles, Groff narrates, adding a layer of intimacy to further enhance the first-person perspective of the majority of this new collection, currently long-listed for the National Book Award. Her French is fluent (Groff’s teenage study abroad in France becomes background fodder in “Yport”); her German is less so. An experienced narrator might have created definitive characterizations, making each story more distinct, but Groff’s consistent, controlled vocalization suggests that these Floridians – whether domiciled in the state or traveling – might be further intertwined off the page.
Standouts, ironically, are the less apparently autobiographical, including “At the Round Earth’s Imagined Corners,” about a boy caught between his sundered parents; “Dogs Go Wolf,” about two abandoned sisters; and “Above and Below,” about a young adult devolving into homeless anonymity. For Groff’s already substantial fan base, her aural debut should provide additional enticement.