A mother takes her young sons to France to escape the Floridian heat of August. She believes the trip will release the writer’s block she’s experiencing, like a fish bone in her throat. Also, she hopes that the boys will pick up French the way they pick up dirt. The mother’s expectations, drawn from memories of a youthful summer spent in France, contrast both subtly and harshly with the reality of their adventure. I love how the writing balances the ferocity of maternal love with the banality of everyday tasks and the relentless thought-processes and decision-making it requires. Groff peels back the surface of this steely, independent mother and invites us to relate to the neuroses and unexpected joys that come with parenthood. But, you don’t have to be a parent appreciate it; ultimately, it’s a story about ambition and outlook altered by time and changed circumstances.
First published in Granta 139: Best of Young American Novelists 3, April 2017 and available to subscribers to read online here. Collected in Florida, Riverhead/William Heinemann, 2018. Picked by Clare Rees, who is a graduate of the MA Creative Writing: First Novel programme at St Mary’s University, Twickenham. She is a copywriter by day and a writer of fiction by night, and is currently working on the first draft of her second novel.