03 Nov Author Spotlight: Lauren Groff
Written by: Nick Philip, Adult Services Supervisor
Over the course of the last 15 years, Lauren Groff has emerged as one of the most critically adored literary fiction authors of the 21st century. Her work tends to oscillate between the past and the present, inhabiting both with a great deal of emotion and wonder. Her latest work, The Vaster Wilds, tells the story of a young servant woman who runs away from Jamestown, Virginia, and attempts to relearn her life in the 17th-century wilderness of colonial America. If you’re interested in exploring Groff’s back catalog, read more about her other novels below.
Groff’s third novel and 2015 release, Fates and Furies, tells the story of a husband and wife, Lotto and Mathilde, living in contemporary New York. Rather than weaving their perspectives together, Groff presents them as separate halves of the whole. The first part, “Fates,” tells the story of their marriage and Lotto’s rise as a playwright from his perspective, which appears to be the most surface-level of the two. The second part, “Furies,” is from Mathilde’s point of view and reveals the secrets of the marriage to the reader. Fates and Furies received critical acclaim and garnered nominations for the National Book Award for Fiction, the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction, and the Kirkus Prize for Fiction.
The Monsters of Templeton marked Groff’s 2008 seismic debut. As first novels often do, this one explores her hometown of Cooperstown, New York (which masquerades as Templeton). Willie Upton returns home from college and learns a shocking truth about her complicated family tree from her mother, a former hippie turned born-again Christian. What follows is a month-long endeavor digging into generations of town history to learn about her own lineage. Heavily inspired by American novelist James Fennimore Cooper and the setting he established in The Pioneers, The Monsters of Templeton is an examination of American history through the familial lens with little fear of the dark spots.
Groff’s second novel, Arcadia, returns to upstate New York to follow Bit Stone between the utopian past of the 1970s and the dystopian near-future (at the time of writing) of 2018. Bit, a boy born and raised in a commune until the age of 14, took on a unique perspective of the world because of his upbringing. Now a university photography professor, Bit is learning how to form his own identity when he is called back to the commune, bringing his life full circle. Arcadia brought Groff her first bit of major recognition from the literary awards community, garnering her a nomination for the 2012 Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Fiction.
Groff’s last novel, Matrix, was her first real journey into historical fiction. Matrix takes place in 1100s England, where Marie de France (an early writer in Anglo-Norman and medieval French literature) becomes the prioress of an abbey as a teenager. The narrative follows Marie as she builds the abbey into a thriving monastic community. The novel was a finalist for both the 2021 National Book Award and the 2022 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction.
While we normally only mention novels in these blogs, it is difficult to overlook Groff’s 2018 short story collection Florida, which carries the name of the state she now calls home. The stories focus on the triumphs and tribulations of the residents of that unique state, with one character wandering in and out of the stories. The collection was immensely successful and was nominated for the National Book Award and the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction.