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Florida Paperback – November 1, 2005


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 168 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books; Reprint edition (November 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0156030543
  • ISBN-13: 978-0156030540
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.4 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 2.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #746,236 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

When Alice is 10, her mother is sent to a psychiatric sanitarium in Florida. With her father's death five years earlier, Alice is essentially an orphan, and she rotates through the homes of relatives in what she calls her "sleep-over life." Sometimes she stays in her grandmother Nonna's home with three floors, eleven baths, and bedrooms galore but little love. Alice's aunt and uncle have two homes, one near Nonna's and one in Tucson, from which Alice is shuffled back and forth with the seasons, her only friends being the family chauffeur and an English teacher who encourages her literary bent. In brief journal-like chapters, Schutt, author of Nightwork (1996), zeroes in on Alice's murky memories as she attempts to establish her identity in the uprooted world she has inherited. The minimalist plot and sometimes nebulous characterizations may put off some readers, but Schutt's perceptive handling of time capsules embedded in Alice's memory, such as her aversion to nursing homes and funerals, marks her as a writer to watch. Deborah Donovan
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Review

PRAISE FOR FLORIDA

"This slender book grows plump on language . . . Florida, like family, is a land where cruelty and tenderness can be nearly indistinguishable and the border between love and rage too often disappears."--Newsday

"The luxury of this debut novel is its rich, descriptive language. It's harnessed with powerful simplicity."--The Christian Science Monitor

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Customer Reviews

I like books that are at least partly uplifting or informative.
Tiny caregiver
Though less surreal and playful than Madeleine, the two also share a highly poetic prose, and both display a strong talent for language, if not story or character.
B. Capossere
From the beginning I am in tears, so deeply does this small novel reach into the hidden places of my heart.
Luan Gaines

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

33 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Luan Gaines HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 26, 2004
Format: Hardcover
In blissful prose that demands attention, Schutt is ruthless, brutal and passionate, as she tells the story of a motherless daughter. From the beginning I am in tears, so deeply does this small novel reach into the hidden places of my heart. Even while the author's transcendent words fill me, my mind reaches to my own mother, in her final days railing against a world she refused to relinquish.
Alice, namesake daughter, is a child born to survive her environment, with a mother who seeks emotional safety in confinement to a sanatorium. There follows a series of homes, but never one of her own and a need to find comfort in a world bereft of comfort, after her father's death and mother's virtual abandonment.
In her ensuing sleep-over life, little Alice must always ask, "may I...?", remain unobtrusive, be pliant, flattering. Moving from her Uncle Billy and Aunt Frances' possession-filled, strict-ruled, child-proofed home to her Nonna's luxurious estate, Alice spills her heart out to an old woman who can barely move, rendered speechless by a stroke. Her sleep-over life motherless and rudderless, Alice grows up with a vengeance, scraping a private existence from the leftovers of others.
Meeting her mother again later in California, the two women move cautiously around each other. In prose that reads like poetry, Alice describes this mother in a series of stark, hurtful observations and the realities of her own life as the generations turn full circle, Alice the woman, a mother almost indistinguishable from the silent Nonna.
Women of a certain age, and there are many, will find this part of the novel exquisitely painful, full of recognition. Florida reflects a validation of women, their ability to survive the direst of circumstances.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Mary Whipple HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on October 24, 2005
Format: Paperback
Nominated for the National Book Award for this debut novel, Christine Schutt creates an impressionistic and moving picture of young Alice Fivey's difficult life from age five, when she is left fatherless, until she is in her thirties. When her mother's mental problems lead to her stay in "the San" within a year of her father's death, Alice is shuttled among family members, living at various times with her Uncle Billy and Aunt Frances, who systematically appropriate her mother's belongings, and for several years with Nonna, her grandmother, who is bedridden and unable to talk.

Schutt presents short, jewel-like memories of the past as they come unbidden to the growing Alice, filling them with the kind of descriptive detail which children remember so vividly. As Alice tries to reconcile the present with the past, she confronts and tries to understand life's big issues--acts of fate, illness, death, and love and their effects on families and one's dreams. Her peripatetic childhood leaves her without strong family role models and even less guidance, but she does form several meaningful friendships which are crucial to her development--with Arthur, a family retainer, and with Mr. Early, her high school English teacher, who encourages her writing talent.

When Alice, in her twenties, reconnects with her mother, she tries to sort through her mother's confused recollections to learn something about her father, but she also learns much about her mother and about the family dynamics involving her parents, her grandmother, and her aunt and uncle. As time passes and death takes its toll on those around her, Alice dreams about all the might-have-been moments, wishing that she could "look at the clock to see how much time you have left."

Repeating symbols unify the novel.
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19 of 23 people found the following review helpful By B. Capossere TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 4, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Florida was the last of the five National Book Award nominees that I came to read, and while it broke the trend of the books getting worse as I read, I have to say, as I've said of the others, that I'm not quite sure why it received such high honor. But if the five as a whole were weak, Florida at least is one of the two best in that weak group.

Like the other decent nominee, Madeleine is Sleeping, Florida is more a collection of vignettes than a single run of novelistic narrative. Though less surreal and playful than Madeleine, the two also share a highly poetic prose, and both display a strong talent for language, if not story or character.

The vignettes are the first-person narrative of Alice Fivey, who loses first her father when she is quite small, then her mother (to a treatment facility known as the Sans) when she is about ten. She is first shuttled off to her Uncle Billy's and Aunt Frances relatively strict home, then to the rich estate of her grandmother ("Nonna"), aged, speechless, stroke-impaired. We dip in and out of her childhood, adolescence, young adulthood, and adulthood as she moves toward a more independent life and yet remains tied to the family, especially circling around an uneasy relationship with her mother who now lives in California. Her two most intimate relationships are with the family chauffeur/servant Arthur and a high school teacher, Mr. Early.

The prose is at times strikingly beautiful and usually has a spare loveliness to it that carries the reader along. The vignettes are small, the book slight, and while the prose isn't simple, it's a relatively easy and quick read. Style is the book's strong suit.

My biggest problem with the book was a lack of engagement.
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