cover image Florida Woman

Florida Woman

Deb Rogers. Hanover Square, $26.99 (352p) ISBN 978-1-335-42689-5

In Rogers’s bewitching debut, a woman tries to start fresh after earning the internet moniker “Florida Woman.” Jamie Hawthorne, rootless at 28, had enough of being harassed and shortchanged by her boss at a St. Augustine tiki bar. Her crime, which comes out in greater detail later in the narrative, involved a fire, autographed dollar bills, and a pelican. Now, hoping to live down her notoriety, she begins a sentence of residential service at the Atlas macaque sanctuary. Its founder, Sari, who takes care of the facility’s 42 monkeys, hopes to inherit the property from her mother, Flora. Though Jamie thinks Atlas has a “grimy, isolated, snake-trap vibe” and her monitoring device chafes her ankle and soul, the place soon feels like home, and she hopes to make the most of her three-month stay. Then, awakened one night by simian shrieks, she witnesses Sari leading volunteers in what appears to be a cultlike ritual. After Jamie glimpses an emaciated Flora combing compost piles for food and is told never to go into the sanctuary’s medical lab, she tries to balance her need for belonging with a growing sense of unease. In the tradition of Carl Hiaasen, Rogers relishes Florida’s oddities and extremes, yet she makes Jamie quietly if quirkily sympathetic, lending the rollicking story a vulnerable heart. Readers will fall in love with this one. Agent: Hannah Brattesani, Friedrich Agency. (July)