FLorida is an American state with the cities of Miami, Orlando and St. Pete in it, a state that has a lot of retirees living next to the always resident or immigrant population, and where people who can afford it continue ahead of the raging winter dodge north for a while. Florida is Disney and Cape Canaveral and the Everglades, and because it belongs to the southern states and has a violent history of slavery, civil war and lynching, Florida is an idiosyncratic ecosystem of both nature and society, a real place as well as a metaphor. This complex, sprawling, ambiguous structure forms the resonance room for Lauren Groff’s stories called “Florida”.
Of the eleven stories in the collection, eight actually happen in Florida, and one in Salvador, Brazil, during a storm that turns the city into something that, at least temporarily, resembles Florida for the time of the narrator’s stay. Two are set in France, the country that fully cultivated its nature centuries ago, while Florida remained at its mercy. But Florida is catching up. From today’s perspective, it is possibly not the gap between nature and culture that separates the two, but only the different degrees of the respective destruction of natural habitats.
Nameless women with family functions
Lauren Groff lives in Florida but does not come from there and therefore maintains a slightly strange look, especially at first the area in which her characters are exposed. Sultry, heat without sunlight, heavy air, cyclones of tremendous force. Animals whose screams cut through the night, beetles that nest in rotten wood, a world full of sounds and movement, never silent. The women in these stories – almost always women who are at the center – give the impression that they were thrown into a danger zone, the rules of which they do not know. They then often know the men whom they have followed there, for their part strange creatures to women, but mostly without arg and nice to the children.
The women Lauren Groff talks about are called “I” or “she” or “the mother”, “the big sister” and “the little sister” or simply “the woman”. Family functions, new forms of an archetype, almost a new species – because most of what is happening in the families of these stories remains as unfathomable for “the mother” as the world of snakes: “As soon as you step foot in Florida one is observed by a snake: snakes in the mulch, snakes in the bushes, snakes that wait on the lawn until you get out of the pool so that they can drown themselves in them, and snakes that look at your pale ankle and wonder what it would be like to drive the fangs in here. “
The woman who tells us this short story entitled “Snake Stories” may be at least related to the other women who play a central role in this book. It may always be the same, or at least one version of the woman running away from her anger in the band’s first story. “Somehow I became a woman who screams around, and because I don’t want to be a woman who screams around, whose children sneak through the house with rigid and watchful expressions, I’ve got used to putting on my running shoes after dinner to walk the dim streets and leave the boys undressing, washing, reading, singing and wrapping up to my husband, someone who doesn’t scream. ”