Finalist for the 2004 National Book Award for Fiction
Florida is the portrait of the artist as a young woman, an orphan's story full of loss and wonder, a familiar tale told in original language. Alice Fivey, fatherless at age seven, is left in the care of her relatives at ten when her love-wearied mother loses custody of her and submits to the sanitarium and years of psychiatric care. A namesake daughter locked in the orphan's move-around life, she must hold still while the seamstress pins her into someone not her mother. But they share the same name, so she is her mother, isn't she?
Alice finds consolation in books and she herself is a storyteller who must build a home for herself word by right word. Florida is her story, recalled in brief scenes of spare beauty and strangeness as Alice moves from house to house, ever further from the desolation of her mother's actions, ever closer to the meaning of her experience. In this most elegiac and luminous novel, Schutt gives voice to the feast of memory, the mystery of the mad and missing, and above all, the life-giving power of language.
—Lydia Davis, author of Samuel Johnson is indignant