Groff has done with this new collection what many writers have attempted but so few have achieved: to create a sense of association between writer and place with precise and evocative writing. In the 11 stories contained in Florida, she creates an image of Florida filled with dread, violence and death, an image that's far from the popular perception of Florida today, while also examining the burdens of privilege, parenthood, and marriage. With her trademark lyricism and singular voice, Groff has proven why she is one of the best writers working today.
Davies’s stories plumb the depths of silence and estrangement, bringing up moments of extraordinary insight about what holds people together and what drives them apart. Death, love, and language do both. Couples exchange words or literally freeze each other out. Lovers disappear. A woman keeps her heart in a box to protect it from theft—and distance herself from pain incurred. Much of Davies’s art is in such details. The “muscled finger” with which an Amazon queen delivers a directive says a lot about leadership, while Queen Victoria’s “locked” mouth and “immovable frown” speak to what it’s like to be a leader. “Nobody tells me anything,” she confesses, and comes to life at the prospect of a story. If stories fill an essential human need for connection, could they redeem the world, or mitigate its harshness? “The Taking of Bunny Clay” raises the possibility, juxtaposing the life of a Haitian nanny with 9/11. The woman’s American employers see her only as “heavy, but reliable,” her face “placid, inscrutable, almost blank.” Had they followed up that “almost” they would have come to know a lonely young mother of three, away from home so long that her children “are too shy to speak to a stranger” when she calls. Globalism and economics are deft silencers. Writers like Davies, bringing to life criminals, Quakers, loners, and Charlotte Brontë, describe another vision of humanity, one based in the title work’s “light…that shines in every man.”
A deeply talented and immenently readable writer, Bonnie Jo Campbell continues her tradition of creating female characters who take up residence inside you, grow roots and refuse to be yanked out with her latest book, Mothers, Tell Your Daughters. The stories in this collection may be primarily located in rural places with people living in poverty but the core combination of steel and vulnerability of each character is so clear, they could be women anywhere in America. Campbell writes with a frankness that cuts deep, talks about every ugly aspect of a woman's life but her gift is you never feel burdened, you can take the abuse and get on with it and continue seeking what joy can be found. With each of her books, she explores the questions of how do we, as women, define ourselves in this world? Mothers, Tell Your Daughters is a brilliant answer.