Publishers Weekly starred review
“Sarah Gerard’s sparkling essays-as-memoir is as multifaceted as Florida itself. Navigating intense friendships, her family’s unconventional faith, a flirtation with Amway, tattoos, drugs, boyfriends and a husband, a homeless shelter and a bird sanctuary run by a corrupt madman, Gerard is wide-eyed yet fully present, blunt yet empathetic to not only the crazy swirl of characters that surround her, but to herself in formation. A tough, honest, beautiful work by one of our brightest and most unflinching young writers.” – Rob Spillman, editor of Tin House
“Sarah Gerard brings an immersion journalist’s acuity and shrewdness to essays made urgent by a native daughter’s alloy of sympathy and rage. Capacious and captivating, Sunshine State gets Florida right—and dead to rights—while breathing fresh life into the shoe-leather memoir.” – Justin Taylor, author of Flings
“Sarah Gerard writes with soulful clarity and keen intelligence about the cultish relationships and aspirational thinking that course through American life. This is a collection packed with bittersweet longing – for a life that’s fuller or wilder or wealthier, for a larger self that’s always out of reach.” – Alex Mar, author of Witches of America
“Sarah Gerard’s Sunshine State gloriously gutted me–and by that I mean changed me forever as a reader. Using Florida as a lens and the body as a ticket to travel, Gerard weaves her astonishing prose through land and corporeal truth. Sunshine State reminds us of who we really are underneath the skin we live in and the ground we stand on—and mercifully, there is still beauty, in spite of everything.” – Lidia Yuknavitch, author of Book of Joan
Rising literary star and Los Angeles Times First Fiction Award finalist Sarah Gerard uses her experiences growing up on Florida’s gulf coast to illuminate the struggles of modern human survival—physical, emotional, environmental—through a collection of essays exploring intimacy, addiction, obsession, religion, homelessness, and incarceration.
With the personal insight of The Empathy Exams, the societal exposal of Nickel and Dimed, and the stylistic innovation and intensity of her own break-out debut novel Binary Star, Sarah Gerard’s Sunshine State uses the intimately personal to unearth the deep reservoirs of humanity buried in the corners of our world often hardest to face.
In the collection’s title essay, Gerard volunteers at the Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary, a world renowned bird refuge. There she meets its founder, who once modeled with a pelican on his arm for a Dewar’s Scotch campaign but has since declined into a pit of fraud and madness. He becomes our embezzling protagonist whose tales about the birds he “rescues” never quite add up. Gerard’s personal stories are no less eerie or poignant: An essay that begins as a look at Gerard’s first relationship becomes a heart-wrenching exploration of acquaintance rape and consent. An account of intimate female friendship pivots midway through, morphing into a meditation on jealousy and class.
Sunshine State offers a unique look at a state whose economically and environmentally imperiled culture serves as a lens through which we can examine some of the most timely, pertinent issues haunting our nation today.