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A Weird, Spooky Love Letter to Florida, by One of Obamas Favorite Writers
Cover: Riverhead Books/Background: Twenty20

When President Obama calls your last book his favorite of 2015, your next had better be impressive.

So sky-high were the expectations for Lauren Groff, who, after the smash success of Fates and Furies, just published a new short-story collection, Florida.

Not all of the 11 stories are set in the titular state (though most are), but they do share a fascination with the danger, desperation and malaise Groff has come to know and respect about her adopted home state—and its inhabitants.

Take, for example, “Ghosts and Empties,” about a morose mother who takes long midnight walks around her neighborhood to calm her anxieties and anger. Or “Dogs Go Wolf,” about two young girls abandoned on an island, forced to eat ChapStick for sustenance while hiding from the threats that could be lurking around every corner.

Like in Fates and Furies, Groff’s detailed descriptions are transportive; you feel like you’re there in the dank cabin or in the eye of the hurricane (of which there are a few in the book—it is Florida after all). A house "tremble[s] and moan[s] itself back to pitch." Children are "two petri dishes growing human cultures." 

Each selection stands on its own (a few were already published in The New Yorker), but they share common themes (think predators of both the human and animal variety) and a number of the protagonists are, like the author, mothers of young children living in the Sunshine State. Others, like the graduate student descending into homelessness in “Above and Below,” are not so much. 

And don't get us started on the snakes. Florida, man. 

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