We Can’t Help It If We’re from Florida: New Sto­ries from a Sink­ing Penin­sula

Shane Hinton (Editor)

Foreword Reviews - - Reviews Adult Fiction - AIMEE JODOIN

Bur­row Press (NOVEM­BER) Hard­cover $24 (200pp) 978-1-941681-87-9 Sto­ries in­ter­twine to elo­quently con­vey the weird­ness of the sun­shine state.

What makes a story in­her­ently Florid­ian? A stray al­li­ga­tor strut­ting down the side­walk? A con­fer­ence in which sci­en­tists dis­cuss the best way to clean up oil spills in the Gulf? Or is it “the faintest sense that time is in­fi­nite. … You can go your own pace, and there will most def­i­nitely be a to­mor­row, and clearly a day af­ter that”? The writ­ers fea­tured in We Can’t Help It If We’re from Florida may not have the an­swer to this ques­tion, but each of their sto­ries and es­says cre­ates an un­for­get­table at­mos­phere apt for the state.

Even those who have not vis­ited Florida will feel the cli­mate of it, right from the start: “On hot days the air still smells like salt wa­ter,” Shane Hinton writes. Vivid scenes in each piece pro­vide both nos­tal­gic and newly dis­cov­ered im­ages of Florida’s land­scape and cul­ture.

There are those who love the state, and there are those who hate it; both are given equal weight and va­lid­ity as they de­tail their ex­pe­ri­ences near sink­holes, on the base­ball field, and through never-end­ing high-school years. Author Lidia Yuk­nav­itch vows never to re­turn to the state in which she grew up—too many painful mem­o­ries. Rac­quel Henry can­not es­cape it: “Those old mem­o­ries rose like ghosts, kept call­ing her, stretch­ing out for her to come home.”

Both fic­tion pieces and nonfiction ones ex­plore the di­verse lifestyles of those who live in Florida. In Laura van den Berg’s “Ki­wano,” “We got pedi­cures and sun­burns. We ate shrimp cock­tails in bed, swad­dled in plush bathrobes.” Ja­son Ock­ert’s story “Ev­ery Heavy Thing” in­vents a lizard who falls from the sky onto a sun­bathing man rem­i­nisc­ing about the mo­ments in his life that made him who he is.

The group of writ­ers whose sto­ries in­ter­twine in We Can’t Help It If We’re from Florida all elo­quently con­vey the weird­ness of the sun­shine state with­out at­tempt­ing to ex­plain it. It’s in­ex­pli­ca­ble, like the sense of home these char­ac­ters feel think­ing about Florida, even when they have moved sev­eral hun­dred miles away.

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