cover image Florida


Lauren Groff. Riverhead, $27 (288p) ISBN 978-1-59463-451-2

Ferocious weather and self-destructive impulses plague the characters in this assured collection, the first from Groff (Fates and Furies) since 2009’s Delicate Edible Birds. In “Above and Below,” a grad student loses her university funding and spirals into homelessness. The solo vacationer in “Salvador”—one of three stories set outside Florida—waits out a raging storm with a menacing shopkeeper who, after the harrowing night, “smelled of wet denim and sweated-out alcohol and sour private skin.” Groff’s descriptions shimmer with precision: in “Eyewall,” at the onset of a hurricane that a hallucinating woman endures alone, “the lake goosebumped” and “the house sucked in a shuddery breath.” On a family getaway to a cheerless cabin in the claustrophobic “The Midnight Zone,” a woman notes “how the screens at night pulsed with the tender bellies of lizards.” That story is one of five to feature an unnamed fretful mother and novelist who, in “Yport,” has dragged her two young sons to France while she researches Guy de Maupassant. “Their world is so full of beauty,” she says, fearing for the boys’ future, “the last terrible flash of beauty before the darkness.” A number of the stories hit similar tonal notes (pessimism threatens to sink a few of them), but Groff’s skillful prose, self-awareness, and dark humor leaven the bleakness, making this a consistently rewarding collection. (June)