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‘Florida’ review: Lauren Groff’s new short story collection is masterful

Groff’s writing is stripped down and honed.

Lauren Groff has a new collection of short

Lauren Groff has a new collection of short stories out called "Florida." Photo Credit: Kristin Kozelsky / Riverhead Books

Lauren Groff’s much-acclaimed 2015 novel, “Fates and Furies,” offered a probing, insightful exploration of a childless marriage. For most of her stellar new short story collection, “Florida,” Groff turns her attention to couples who do take the plunge into parenting.

But these are not simply paeans to the tender joys that children provide; they are tales of parents — usually mothers — brimming with anxiety and fear over the future of their sons and daughters.

The underlying dread can grow out of the actions of other adults, the cascading consequences of climate change, or the ominous flora and fauna of the hot, sticky state of Florida itself. Humanity is revealed as isolated or abandoned or hemmed in by nature, in the guise of a swamp or a snake or a panther or a storm.

Opener “Ghosts and Empties” is a prose poem ripe with aching and pain, much like the mother who tries to walk away her worries.

“Above and Below,” where a young woman’s moorings slip away one by one leaving her utterly adrift, and “The Midnight Zone,” where the mundane task of changing a light bulb becomes nightmarish, highlight the horrifying ease with which chaos can take over.

Groff’s writing is stripped down and honed, with few extraneous words. She experiments with form without veering into gimmick or forsaking the power of language, which she expertly wields.

In “Eyewall,” a woman decides to ride out a hurricane at home and is subsequently visited by the spirits of lost loves. What could be almost silly, Groff renders as a masterful meditation on maturity, sacrifice and rebirth.

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