Last Updated on August 7, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 539
Lauren Groff's Florida is a collection of 11 stories that explore the experiences of characters from, or currently living in, the American state of the book's title. Florida, as it's depicted here, is full of threats, from dangerous animals like alligators and snakes to human threats like neglectful family members and stalkers.
As observed by Lisa Zeidner in a review of the collection for the Washington Post,
Groff is most fascinated by the fear itself. Her morose protagonists drink too much wine as they fret about everything from global warming to the daily hazards confronting their vulnerable children.
Because the book features multiple characters and stories, in this response I will focus on just a few of the important characters portrayed in Florida.
The lonely woman featured in "Eyewall":
One of the collection's characters is a woman who lives mostly in isolation, excluding the company of her chickens. Unfortunately, Florida is often subject to unpredictable and extreme weather. A storm strikes, throwing the chickens the woman depends on emotionally into harm's way. A male neighbor attempts to convince the character to leave with him to avoid harm, but she refuses. Later, she watches as he becomes a victim of the storm, washed off the road as he attempts to flee. This quote from the story expresses the character's anxiety as she's caught in the middle of the storm:
My best laying hen was scraped from under the house and slid in a horrifying diagonal across the window. For a moment, we were eye to lizardy eye. I took a breath. The glass fogged, and when it cleared, my hen had blown away.
Caught up in the chaos, the chicken-keeper hallucinates. Florida's turbulent weather can be seen as reflecting her sense of internal disorder.
The mother in "The Midnight Zone":
In the story "The Midnight Zone," a young mother is at a holiday cabin with her two young children. This cabin is described as being "so far from humanity in all that Florida waste." When she tries to change a lightbulb, an accident occurs: she splits her head open. The woman's husband isn't present, and she cannot access cell phone reception. As she struggles to contend with the impact of her severe concussion, the mother tries to hide the extent of her injuries from her children to avoid frightening them.
Hungry characters in "Dogs Go Wolf" and "Above and Below":
Hunger connects characters in the stories "Dogs Go Wolf" and "Above and Below." "Dogs Go Wolf" depicts two young sisters. These sisters suffer from neglect; they're living alone in an isolated cabin. They have no access to food, water, or electricity, and they're starving. In order to survive, they hide in caves and try feeding on a cherry-flavored ChapStick. These sisters must contend with not only their starvation and growing fatigue but also the fear that they will never be rescued.
In "Above and Below," a debt-riddled grad student falls into homelessness after she breaks up with her boyfriend and loses funding for her studies. She is haunted by reminders of her previous life (including the grounds of her former university campus). Throughout the story, the former grad student reflects on the family members who have failed to meaningfully support her.