I started out the year with a goal to participate in the Read Harder Challenge that is put out by BookRiot. I’ll include a link to the Read Harder Challenge at the end of this post. One of the options was to read a book by a woman or author of color that won an award in 2018. Groff’s collection of stories has been on my list since it came out, so it became an easy choice for this part of the challenge. I was interested in it not just because the stories are set in Florida, but because Groff herself resides in my hometown. I had not realized that she is a fairly seasoned author, with several other books published prior to this one. I had wondered several times, and still do, how often I may have passed her in the street, or in a store. I opted for the Audible version of this book because she narrates it herself, and I generally feel that an author can lend much more conviction to their own stories, since only they truly know the emotion they wanted to instill as they crafted their stories.
Let me start by saying that Lauren Groff could read me a telephone book and I would probably enjoy it. She has a beautiful lilting voice, at times soothing, and many times seductive even when reading mundane parts of her stories. I thoroughly enjoyed the Audio of the book. What’s more, her stories are convincing, emotive and beautiful. Her characters in “Florida” face daunting and realistic inner battles as they also face the realities of life in Florida. The worries of a parent, of death, of facing possible assaults, of failing marriages and overlooked extramarital affairs that women live through every day are prominent in her writing while still embracing the state in its rawness. Panthers, snakes, sinkholes and heat brought me home to my state. Her descriptions of baking heat, reading with fans on, the scrub outside of cabins, sudden storms that rival hurricanes are all something that become everyday for people who live here. Groff brings them to life to create a muggy palmetto and city scene that few have managed to pull off. Meanwhile, characters faced possible death, homelessness, the challenges of marriages or failed ones. Groff subtly displays many of the actual life altering events that we all experience and somehow captures the very emotions that surround each issue without laying them out in blatantly obvious text. I almost felt like her words were a water flow, with these issues laying as rocks underneath, visible but not completely obvious. It was such a beautiful way of letting the reader know that they are understood.
I feel that Groff’s collection is an essential read both as a Floridian, but also as a woman who overthinks and fears in ways portrayed in the book. It is a great look into the inner workings of fraught minds of mothers, wives, young women and even children in many ways. I’ll be adding a paper copy to my collection, but seriously, do yourself a truly huge favor and listen to her read it one time.
The Read Harder Challenge is put out by BookRiot every year. It is a fantastic way to reach beyond your normal reading boundaries and find new worlds and authors. Here is the link to this year’s read harder challenge. https://bookriot.com/2018/12/12/2019-read-harder-challenge/