While it's true that my children were endlessly fascinating, two petri dishes growing human cultures, being a mother never had been, and all that seemed assigned by gender I would not do because it felt insulting. I would not buy clothes, I would not make dinner, I would not keep schedules, I would not make playdates, never ever. I would hug them as long as they wanted to be hugged but that was just being human.
Barack Obama listed Lauren Groff's Fates and Furies as the best book of 2015. This month, Groff built on her extraordinary success with the release of her new collection of short stories, Florida. I'm up in Hancock Point and finally got my hands on a copy of these gorgeous and haunting stories. I am a big fan of Fates and Furies, so I had high hopes for this collection. I was not disappointed.
Most of these stories take place in Florida and include restless women who feel deeply ambivalent about motherhood. In "Midnight Zone," Groff follows a family of four on a camping trip. When Dad is called away from the trip to deal with a work crisis, Mom is left on her own to navigate the complex and lonely terrain of parenting. In order to quiet her young sons, she "stupefies them with calories:" pancakes slathered thick with butter, eggs sprinkled with shredded cheddar, hot cocoa with inches of whipped cream and marshmallows. She realizes too late that these foods only give the boys extra energy. In "Yport," a mother from Florida takes her young sons to France to study Guy de Maupassant. They stay in a small village where, yet again, the mother bribes her children with calories (this is a bit of a theme here--I love it): "She orders a salted caramel crepe for dessert. At home they eat sugar only on holiday or in emergencies-- she knows it is a poison; it can make you fat and crazy and eventually lose all your memories when you're old; she has boys, she's not dumb, she knows that sad obsolescence will more than likely be her fate, as girls are the ones who change your diapers when you've lost control of your bodily functions, and no son wants to wet-wipe his mother's vulva, but she wants her boys to love France and she isn't above bribery."
Aspects of these stories border on the surreal: a wandering panther, swamp dwelling alligators, menacing snakes, formidable storms, and ghostly children. Groff shows readers a dreadful side of Florida rarely seen by tourists. I'm glad that I read this. Count me as a fan. I'm eagerly awaiting her next book.