I picked this book up in an airport to read on the plane. And I read almost the entire book on just one four-hour flight.
I had never heard of Lauren Groff but she has some full length novels. This book however is a collection of short stories, all based in Florida or about Floridians. Having recently spent a lot of time in Florida I found it really interesting, and Groff’s writing style poetic. In fact since finishing this book I have read reviews of her other works, not all favorable. But she seems to have a unique quality as a short story writer. Each story creating engaging characters and sometimes gripping scenarios. Stories of snakes and boys, abandonment and small girls, adults with issues, families in despair.
Florida is as unique and diverse as the state itself and I enjoyed this easy and beautifully written collection.
Four stars for Florida by Lauren Groff
Read last week’s review of The Murmur of Bees.
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Sometimes I have authors or publishers reach out to me and ask me to read and review books. I love doing that especially for books produced by small publishing house or even those self-published by the author. Getting published is HARD. And the competition is fierce. This book was brought to me by Jackie Karnath, Sr. Publicist at Books Forward, a book marketing company. I was happy to look at another one of her clients having enjoyed Florida by Lauren Goff a couple years ago. So, here is my Book Review Snakes of St. Augustine by Ginger Pinholster.
First of all, this is not a horror story about snakes. But it is a story where snakes feature prominently. If you suffer from ophidiophobia (the fear of snakes), you still should give this book a try. I actually learned a lot about snakes and snake behavior in this book. All that said, the deeper message in this book is a story about the tragedy of mental illness.
Florida is where this novel is based, fittingly as the state is home to 44 species of snakes. We are introduced to a variety of characters in this story. First we meet Trina who runs a Serpentarum for protection and education about Florida snakes. When someone breaks in to the Serpentarium and steals some of her most valuable snakes the plot will begin to revolve around a cast of characters. Gerthin a very troubled young man whose love of animals in general and snakes in particular is a suspect. His sister Serena who has been raising him since their mother abandoned them a decade earlier is trying to understand and help her misfit brother.
In addition to Gerthin’s mental needs the novel brings in the character of Jazz, a homeless student living in a park, and refusing to take his bipolar meds. His gigantic mood swings and frantic love for Serena will both intrigue and frighten her. Helping to recover the stolen snakes is local cop Fletch, only months away from retirement he is trying to keep his head down while grappling with the grief of loosing his wife the year before.
Throughout the book as the search for the stolen snakes ensues, Pinholster gently weaves the topics of homelessness, drug abuse, mental illness, abandonment and loneliness into a lovely novel you initially think is about snakes. At it’s core it’s about family. I enjoyed the book very much.
Thank you for reading my book review Snakes of St. Augustine by Ginger Pinholster.
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