St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves

St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves

by Karen Russell

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Overview

Here is the debut short story collection from the author of the Pulitzer Prize finalist Swamplandia! and the New York Times bestselling Vampires in the Lemon Grove.

In these ten glittering stories, the award-winning, bestselling author Orange World and Other Stories takes us to the ghostly and magical swamps of the Florida Everglades. Here wolf-like girls are reformed by nuns, a family makes their living wrestling alligators in a theme park, and little girls sail away on crab shells.

Filled with inventiveness and heart, St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves is the dazzling debut of a blazingly original voice.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780307276674
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 08/14/2007
Series: Vintage Contemporaries Series
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 256
Sales rank: 81,888
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.99(h) x 0.75(d)

About the Author

Karen Russell, a native of Miami, won the 2012 National Magazine Award for fiction, and her first novel, Swamplandia! (2011), was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. She is a graduate of the Columbia MFA program, a 2011 Guggenheim Fellow, and a 2012 Fellow at the American Academy in Berlin. She lives in Philadelphia.

Read an Excerpt

Ava Wrestles the AlligatorMy sister and I are staying in Grandpa Sawtooth’s old house until our father, Chief Bigtree, gets back from the Mainland. It’s our first summer alone in the swamp. “You girls will be fine,” the Chief slurred. “Feed the gators, don’t talk to strangers. Lock the door at night.” The Chief must have forgotten that it’s a screen door at Grandpa’s—there is no key, no lock. The old house is a rust-checkered yellow bungalow at the edge of the wild bird estuary. It has a single, airless room; three crude, palmetto windows, with mosquito-blackened sills; a tin roof that hums with the memory of rain. I love it here. Whenever the wind gusts in off the river, the sky rains leaves and feathers. During mating season, the bedroom window rattles with the ardor of birds.Now the thunder makes the thin window glass ripple like wax paper. Summer rain is still the most comforting sound that I know. I like to pretend that it’s our dead mother’s fingers, drumming on the ceiling above us. In the distance, an alligator bellows—not one of ours, I frown, a free agent. Our gators are hatched in incubators. If they make any noise at all, it’s a perfunctory grunt, bored and sated. This wild gator has an inimitable cry, much louder, much closer. I smile and pull the blankets around my chin. If Osceola hears it, she’s not letting on. My sister is lying on the cot opposite me. Her eyes are wide open, and she is smiling and smiling in the dark.“Hey, Ossie? Is it just you in there?”My older sister has entire kingdoms inside of her, and some of them are only accessible at certain seasons, in certain kinds of weather. One such melting occurs in summer rain, at midnight, during the vine-green breathing time right before sleep. You have to ask the right question, throw the right rope bridge, to get there—and then bolt across the chasm between you, before your bridge collapses.“Ossie? Is it just us?” I peer into the grainy dark. There’s the chair that looks like a horned devil’s silhouette. There’s the blind glint of the terrarium glass. But no Luscious. Ossie’s evil boyfriend has yet to materialize.“Yup,” she whispers. “Just us.” Ossie sounds wonderfully awake. She reaches over and pats my arm.“Just us girls.”That does it. “Just us!” we scream. And I know that for once, Ossie and I are picturing the same thing. Miles and miles of swamp, and millions and millions of ghosts, and just us, girls, bungalowed in our silly pajamas.We keep giggling, happy and nervous, tickled by an incomplete innocence. We both sense that some dark joke is being played on us, even if we can’t quite grasp the punch line.“What about Luscious?” I gasp. “You’re not dating Luscious anymore?”Uh-oh. There it is again, that private smile, the one that implies that Ossie is nostalgic for places I have never been, places I can’t even begin to imagine.Ossie shakes her head. “Something else, now.”“Somebody else? You’re not still going to, um,” I pause, trying to remember her word, “elope? Are you?”Ossie doesn’t answer. “Listen,” she breathes, her eyes like blown embers. The thunder has gentled to a soft nicker. Outside, something is scratching at our dripping window. “He’s here.”You know, Ossie’s possessions are nothing like those twitch-fests you read about in the Bible, no netherworld voices or pigs on a hill. Her body doesn’t smolder like a firecracker, or ululate in dead languages. Her boyfriends possess her in a different way. They steal over her, silking into her ears and mouth and lungs, stealthy and pervasive, like sickness or swallowed water. I watch her metamorphosis in guilty, greedy increments. Ossie is sweating. Ossie is heavy-breathing. She puts her fist in her mouth, her other hand disappearing beneath the covers.Then she moans, softly.And I get that peculiar knot of fear and wonder and anger, the husk that holds my whole childhood. Here is another phase change that I don’t understand, solid to void, happening in such close proximity to me. The ghost is here. I know it, because I can see my sister disappearing, can feel the body next to me emptying of my Ossie, and leaving me alone in the room. Luscious is her lewdest boyfriend yet. The ghost is moving through her, rolling into her hips, making Ossie do a jerky puppet dance under the blankets. This happens every night, lately, and I’m helpless to stop him. Get out of here, Luscious! I think very loudly. Get back in your grave! You leave my sister alone. . . .Hag-ridden, her cot is starting to swing. I am so jealous of Ossie. Every time the lights flicker in a storm, or a dish clatters to the floor, it’s a message from her stupid boyfriend. The wind in her hair, the wind in the trees, all of it a whistled valentine. And meanwhile who is busy decapitating stinking ballyhoo for the gators? Who is plunging the Bigtree latrines, and brushing the plaster teeth inside the Gator Head? Exactly. At sixteen, Ossie is four years my senior and twice my height. Yet somehow I’m the one who gets stuck doing all the work. That’s the reward for competence, I guess. When the Chief left, he put me in charge of the whole park.Our family owns Swamplandia!, the island’s #1 Gator Theme Park and Swamp Café, although lately we’ve been slipping in the rankings. You may have seen our wooden sign, swinging from the giant kapok tree on Route 6: COME SEE SETH, FANGSOME SEA SERPENT AND ANCIENT LIZARD OF DEATH!!! All of our alligators, we call “Seth.” Tradition is as important, the Chief says, as promotional materials are expensive. When my mother was alive, she ran the show, literally. Mom took care of all the shadowy, behind-the-scenes stuff: clubbing sick gators, fueling up the airboats, butchering chickens. I didn’t even know these ugly duties existed. I’m pretty sure Ossie is still oblivious. Osceola doesn’t have to do chores. “Your sister is special,” the Chief has tried to explain to me, on more than one occasion. I don’t cotton to this sophist logic. I’m special too. My name is a palindrome. I can climb trees with simian ease. I can gut buckets of chub fish in record time. Once Grandpa Sawtooth held a dead Seth’s jaws open, and I stuck my whole head in his fetid mouth.There are only two Swamplandia! duties that I can’t handle on my own: stringing up the swamp hens on Live Chicken Thursdays, and pulling those gators out of the water. This means that I can’t compete in the junior leagues, or perform solo. It doesn’t bother me enough to make me braver. I still refuse to wade into the pit, and anyways, I am too weak to get my own gator ashore. Our show is simple: the headlining wrestler, usually the Chief, wades into the water, making a big show of hunting the sandy bottom for his Seth. Then he pulls a gator out by its thrashing tail. The gator immediately lurches forward, yanking the Chief back into the water. The Chief pulls him out again, and again the infuriated gator pulls my father towards the water. This tug-of-war goes on for a foamy length of time, while the crowd whoops and wahoos, cheering for our species.Finally, the Chief masters his Seth. He manages to get him landlocked and clamber onto his back. This is the part where I come in. Aunt Hilola strikes up a manic tune on the calliope—ba-da-DOOM-bop-bop!—and then I’m cartwheeling out across the sand, careful to keep a grin on my face even as I land on the gator’s armor-plated scutes. My thighs are waffled with the shadow of those scutes. Up close, the Seths are beautiful, with corrugated gray-green backs and dinosaur feet. The Chief, meanwhile, has taken advantage of my showy entrance to lasso black electrical tape around the Seth’s snout. He takes my bare hands and holds them up to the crowd, splaying my little palms for their amusement.Then he closes them around Seth’s jaws. I smile and smile at the tourists. Inside my tight fist, the Seth strains and strains against the tape. The Chief keeps his meaty hands on top of my own, obscuring the fact that I am doing any work at all. The Chief likes to remind me that the tourists don’t pay to watch us struggle.At some point, I must have dozed off, because when I wake up the screen door is banging in the wind. I glance at my watch: 12:07. When Mom was alive, Ossie had a ten o’clock curfew. I guess technically she still does, but nobody’s here to enforce it. She lets Luscious possess her for hours at a time. It makes me furious to think about this, and a little jeal- ous, Luscious taking Ossie’s body on a joy ride through the swamp. I worry about her. She could be deep into the slash pines by now, or halfway to the pond. But if I leave the house, then I’ll be breaking the rules, too. I pull the covers over my head and bite my lip. A surge of unused adrenaline leaves me feeling sick and quakey. The next thing I know, I’m yanking my boots on and running out the door, as if I were the one possessed.Strange lights burn off the swamp at night. Overhead, the clouds stretch across the sky like some monstrous spider- web, dewed with stars. Tiny planes from the Mainland whir towards the yellow moon, only to become cobwebbed by cloud. Osceola is much easier than an animal to track. She’s mowed a drunken path through the scrub. The reeds grow tall and thick around me, hissing in the wind like a thousand vipers. Every few steps, I glance back at the receding glow of the house.Several paces ahead of me, I see a shape that turns into Ossie, pushing through the purple cattails. She’s used hot spoons and egg dye to style her hair into a lavender vapor. It trails behind her, steaming out of her skull, as if Ossie were the victim of a botched exorcism. The trick is to catch Osceola off guard, to stalk her obliquely behind the dark screen of mangrove trees, and then ambush her with my Flying-Squirrel Super Lunge. If you try to stop her head-on, you don’t stand a chance. My sister is a big girl, edging on two hundred pounds, with three extra eyeteeth and a jaguar bite. Also, she is in love. During her love spells, she rolls me off her shoulders with a mindless ox-twitch, and steps right over me.What is she going to do with Luscious? I wonder. What does she do out there with Luscious for hours every night? I’m more fearful than curious, and now she is waist-deep in the saw grass, an opal speck shrinking into the marsh. At odd intervals, rumbling above the insect drone, I hear one of the wild gators bellow. For a monster, it’s a strangely plaintive sound to make: long and throaty, full of a terrible sweetness, like the Chief’s voice grown gruff with emotion. Ever since he left us, I am always listening for it. It’s a funny kind of comfort in the dark.As I watch, Ossie moves beyond the clarity of moonlight and the silver-green cattails, subsumed into the black mangroves. A new noise starts soon after.I pace along the edge of the marsh, too afraid to follow her, not for the first time. This is it, this is the geographical limit of how far I’ll go for Ossie. We are learning latitude and longitude in school, and it makes my face burn that I can graph the coordinates of my own love and courage with such damning precision. I walk along the dots of the invisible line, peering after her. There’s a syrupy quality to this kind of night: it’s humid and impenetrable, pouring over me. I stand there until Ossie is lost to sight.“Ossie . . .?” It’s only a half-yell, the very least I can do. Then, spooked by the sound of my own voice, I turn and walk quickly back towards the bungalow. It’s her body, I think, it’s her business. Besides, Ossie likes being lovesick. How do you treat a patient who denies there’s anything wrong? Behind me, the bellows intensify. I walk faster.Most people think that gators have only two registers, hunger and boredom. But these people have never heard an alligator bellow. “Languidge,” Ms. Huerta, our science teacher, likes to lisp, “is what separates us from the animals.” But that’s just us humans being snobby. Alligators talk to one another, and to the moon, with a woman’s stridency.

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St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 48 reviews.
heyjessica More than 1 year ago
Interesting premises for the stories, but none of them seemed complete. Every time I thought, "Oh, this is getting really good", the story would end. It was sort of a letdown. After two stories you see the pattern: character with an extraordinary talent/background/toy/story, meager plot, and then no resolution. The more stories I read, the less I liked the collection. And I really, really, wanted to like it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I could not get into any of these stories at all. I would begin one, read a few pages and be instantly bored or confused.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
You did it publishers! The blurb and cover art completely sold me on this book, and then I struggled to keep my eyes open while I slowly turned the pages and checked page numbers to see I my copy was missing pages at the end of each story when it ended, mid-climax. Karen Russel is clearly a talented writer and highly imaginative person, if only she could forget her High School AP vocab sheet and everything she learned in Undergrad creative writing class. I wouldn't recommend this to anyone, I certainly will never read another book by this author again. There are ten stories in this collection (all about children who seem like rehashes of the same character), each one starts out about as boring as a middle-school history book. Then a very compelling premise slowly unravels and builds towards a climax and ends stops abruptly. A waste of money - just read the wikipedia blurbs, at least they skip the exposition.
Guest More than 1 year ago
With all the hype around this book I was very excited to read it only to be highly, awfully disappointed. Each story is written as if from a formula being taught to young writers in creative writing programs around the country these days: set up a problem, create some overly eccentric characters, use the flashiest most poetic language you can muster, and then write a resolution that half resolves the problem and half leaves it open, making the reader say, 'Oh, wow, what next?' Another problem is that many of the stories are told in first-person by an adolescent narrator, and in the present tense, yet they use that flashy, poetic language -- how many teenagers are smart enough out there to write such stories? It's obviously the author doing the writing, not the character-narrator, and so the whole illusion of the story breaks down and fails. Also, none of the themes in this book are new: growing up is hard to do, my parents aren't there for me, the world stinks. It's the same old thing wrapped up in a new package. I'd recommend a pass on this one.
Guest More than 1 year ago
If you can, track down Russell's debut in The New Yorker magazine in June of this year - 'Accident Report.' Absolutely astonishing narrative in a completely fictional world.
harstan More than 1 year ago
These are ten delightful fables that star young heroes and heroines living in an offbeat magical Florida Everglades. The irony behind the uplifting tales is that they involve growing up to face reality yet still retain the magical environs of childhood while on the verge of losing their youthful enthusiasm forever. Each contribution is haunting (not just Olivia¿s tale) and satirical as Karen Russell brings out the inspirational ¿I won¿t Grow Up¿ from Peter Pan while having to pretend to have grown up albeit what are girls who just want to have fun raised by wolves but now left with nuns to do except to fake assimilation. Whether one searches for a dead sister using enchanted goggles or has a Minatare as a dad, ST. LUCY'S HOME FOR GIRLS RAISED BY WOLVES: AND OTHER STORIES is a fun compilation that cleverly lampoons adult solutions to children¿s problems by sending them to their room in this case a camp for troubled sleepers. --- Harriet Klausner
HarvReviewer on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Karen Russell's startlingly original collection, St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves, features graceful and seductive prose that transports the reader into surreal and yet utterly plausible realms. Many of the stories are set in Russell's native region of South Florida, but it's not the familiar territory of high-rise condos and golf courses¿it's a world of alligator-infested swamps, ghosts and spectral moonlight. The adolescents who people these mostly first-person tales aren't hanging out at the mall or gabbing on cell phones. Instead, they seek their identity in a kind of edge world that features such exotic venues as the girls' home of the title story.Highlights include "Haunting Olivia," in which two young brothers engage in a daring nocturnal diving exercise searching for their drowned sister, and "from Children's Reminiscences of the Westward Migration," a one-of-a-kind story of filial devotion. In every story, Russell demonstrates a mastery of her craft, an achievement made even more compelling by the fact that she's only 24 years old.
kaelirenee on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Childhood is an unreal world. Children are surrounded by giants with unusual motivations and trying to understand them (or worse, become them) is confusing and frightening. The rules of friendship, devotion, maturation, and secrets are opaque and ever-changing. ¿When you¿re a kid, it¿s hard to tell the innocuous secrets from the ones that will kill you if you keep them,¿ Russell reminds us. Russell captures this and translates these worries, fears, and horrors for us adults. Her attempts at translation make the stories sound magical, or just plain weird, to an adult. We no longer have to imagine how our children view us (because we do forget). Russell has written this book.She reminds us how important parents are to children, especially how we are viewed in their eyes, in ¿from Children¿s Reminiscences of the Westward Migration.¿ Though the notion of having the Minotaur for a father is mystical, having parents who fight and then mysteriously make up the next day is not. Wondering how your father sees you is not. ¿I have been eagerly awaiting just such a disaster. Storms, wolves, snakebite, floods¿these are the occasions to find out how your father sees you, how strong and necessary he thinks you are,¿ the Minotaur¿s son tells us. It¿s only after reading it that I realized how true that statement is. She peppers her fables and tall tales with these truisms. If you ever want to see how protective a child can feel about his parents, read ¿Lady Yeti and the Palace of Artificial Snow.¿ And if you ever wonder to what lengths children regularly go to please parents, read ¿Accident Brief, Occurrence #00/422.¿Stories capturing the fears of becoming an adult include ¿Ava wrestles and Alligator¿ and the title story. The girls in these two stories have such amazing and unbelievable back stories; Ava is left to mind a teenaged older sister who is possessed by male demons and left in charge of an alligator ranch in the middle of nowhere. The girls at St. Lucy¿s must leave their werewolf parents and learn to become real humans. And yet these story elements feel normal when the narrators describe their lives. What isn¿t normal is becoming a young lady or encountering sexuality. Those are frightening. Werewolf parents and tame alligators are not. Even changing how the world is viewed is frightening, especially when our friends start leaving us behind, as is covered in ¿Z.Z.¿s Sleep-Away Camp for Disordered Dreamers.¿As I was reading these stories, I just kept saying ¿This is so weird.¿ I said it so often, my boyfriend decided he had to read the book (this is not a small feat). As grownups, we are lucky enough to have forgotten all our childish fears and misgivings. As parents, these stories can remind us of what are children are going through. There is rarely clear resolution in these stories. While this is occasionally unsatisfying, I realize that Russell isn¿t giving us plot, and plot is the only thing that can be resolved nicely. She is giving us a glimpse of the people we wish we weren¿t-our younger selves. And those are never resolved.
Winterrain on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A new writer can pull things off in a short story that would be dismissed as too bizarre in a longer work, and Karen Russell is well aware of this. The stories in her collection range from mildly unusual to absurd, but each one is crafted with skill. The volume begins and ends on a high note (the weaker stories are in the middle) and the title story created a world that I desperately want to see more of.
AlfonsoXelSabio on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
All of the stories in this collection are memorable. The evocative writing matches the crazily imaginative premises and events perfectly, fleshing out characters I think will haunt me for some time. Russell uses children characters as a vehicle for issues and unresolved feelings we still experience as adults, as well evidenced in "Out to Sea," in which the main character is a retired man instead of the inscrutable girl he's matched up with in a public service program. I very much appreciate the new worlds Russell opens up for us. I didn't give it all five stars because of the way the stories ended. Each time, it seemed, just as things were coming to a real head, the narration suddenly dropped off. This is a useful technique when describing uncertain and unresolved experiences, but it became too predictable when it appeared in story after story. A writer as talented as Russell shouldn't have to resort to the same kind of ending absolutely every time. That said, I hope to read more by her even if the endings aren't different!
CBJames on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Karen Russell writes of roadside America, all those little, run-down attractions that used to dot the highways with desperate billboards trying to catch each tourist's fancy-- Just 100 miles away, 50 miles to....., 10 more miles to......., you've just missed...... A dilapidated alligator farm, a collection of giant seashells, big enough to hide in, a retirement home made up of old houseboats, a skating rink with live orangutans, a summer camp for children with sleep disorders, an orphanage for werewolves's daughters. Even people who don't take the time to stop and see what's there spend a few minutes wondering what kind of people would. Just who runs places like that? What would it be like to grow up there?St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves starts of strong with Ava Wrestles the Alligator and Haunting Olivia, two stories I've reviewed previously. (I put them both on the list of 1001 Short Stories You Must Read Before You Die.) Both deal with two siblings--girls in one, boys in the other--on their own for the summer, parents away dealing with problems of loss. The children try to make sense of their worlds and their family's neglect of them in whatever way they can. Their imaginations play such a strong role in their lives that the both stories begin to border on fantasy, the reader begins to wonder what is real in each.Unfortunately, the remainder of the stories decline in quality. I enjoyed "Z.Z.'z Sleep-Away Camp for Disordered Dreamers" and "Out to Sea," but the novelty of each story's unusual setting and unusual premise began to wear off well before the last story in the collection. The early stories used their fantastic premises and fanciful plot elements to say something about the human condition. But by the end of the collection what had been insightful seems merely clever. What insight into ourselves can we gain from a story about girls raised by wolves who are trained to function in the human world? We learn that afterwards they are no longer wolves, they cannot ever return to their wolf families. You can't go home again. I expected more of a payoff than that. But the stories in St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves that do payoff, payoff well. The fanciful plot elements draw the reader into the childhood worlds Karen Russell explores, worlds that can be as imaginary as they are real. Child's play can take very serious turns in it's attempt to make sense of the adult world.Karen Russell, at age 24, has received high praise for her collection. She's been featured on National Public Radio, named one of the Best Young American novelists by Granta without actually having published a novel, and has something of a following already. I hope this doesn't end up hurting her writing in the long run. While I'm not recommending anyone buy St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves I am looking forward to more from Karen Russell. What's good in her collection is very good. Unfortunately, success can lead a writer to focus on what succeeded, instead of on what was good.
lmichet on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is BRILLIANT.I picked it up last night at about seven and had read 76 pages by eight. The writing is gorgeous and the subjects are so beautifully absurd that I couldn't help myself. And the children-- this is the best writing about children that I have ever read, even though the children are in wildly unreal situations. Children of minotaurs? Children who have magical sleep disorders? Children raised by, as the title suggests, wolves? All yes. And all better, more real, than anything I have ever read about children before, ever. It's the emotions that she picks up on, see, that make it so excellent. That and the barrel-ahead, cut-you-up intensity of her writing.Help, I have only five years until I am ALSO twenty-five! What if I don't have an insanely good book published by then? This is too good a standard for people to be setting, honestly. I think I'm doomed.
nivramkoorb on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Karen Russell is very talented. Her stories are very creative and her writing is engaging. Being 25 at the time of this collection being published, I am glad that she deals with children and not people older than her. As mentioned by another reviewer her stories do not end well. They just stop and if there is a point she is trying to make, then I don't get it. Except maybe she was already thinking about her novel that explores some familiar ground that is in this collection. Her style and subject matter are not in the area that I enjoy the most. However, she has such potential that I look forward to her expanding her subject matter as she gets older and more experienced.
plenilune on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Magical realism at its best-- where it is part of the story, not the story itself. These stories are well-written and, as both a writer and an avid reader, a pleasure to read and to experience. My only complaints are the order of the stories in the collection and the sort of inexperienced repetitiveness you find in first collections.
alana_leigh on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Karen Russell's debut collection of short stories, St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised By Wolves, is a fascinating trip into tales where, believe it or not, the twisted realities seem to surpass even the creations of wild, young imaginations.There is something captivating (slash haunting?) about childhood -- a belief, real or imagined, that things were simpler... or at least that we were all less aware of the complications lurking around us. This is, of course, a construct of adulthood as we give our younger selves less credit, because children are startlingly observant. The children in Russell's stories are very clearly not unaware -- they see everything and know things are wrong even if they cannot put names or motives to the adult betrayals and issues. Their stories may all possess elements of magical realism, but it's the very true, wounded emotions that infuse the page which make them live and breathe. The stories themselves are not connected to each other, but they share a general sense of magical realism that imbues the Floridian swamplands. The title story, "St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves," is perhaps the most unforgettable of the group -- children raised by their werewolf parents are willingly handed off to the nuns so they might have a chance at shaking off their lupine upbringing, as they themselves will never experience the magical change. In "Ava Wrestles the Alligator," a girl watches her potentially possessed sister experience a sexual awakening, fending for herself and a little too unaware of the danger that comes from outside a person, rather than within, even when it's not in alligator skin. Other stories feature theme parks made up of giant conch shells, an assisted living center where the elderly inhabitants occupy boats instead of apartments, and a disillusioned young star-gazer struggles to hold on to a sense of wonder in the world while slipping in to the grasp of peer pressure. While the settings and actual events may be strange and incredible, it's really the description of emotional states and changes that indelibly remain in the reader's mind. (Well, okay, the odd details stick around, too.)Fans of Kelly Link will find a kindred spirit here, though Karen Russell narrows her focus on the Everglades and its environs. Her tone is quite perfect for the short story format, as she offers a concise and single glimpse at each settling that feels whole in its existence, even if one itches to know more. This is a collection that should not be missed if you enjoy short stories, twisted backwoodsy settings, or alligators in most any format.
GingerbreadMan on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
My short story category is shaping up to be my favorite this year, bringing me the strangest and most original reading experiences. Young Karen Russell¿s debut collection is a weird, dark and pretty wonderful reading experience. She has a real knack for setting, and lets these stories take place in an abandoned alligator park, on a floating home for the elderly, on a camp for children with creepy sleeping disorders and other unusual places. Just the titles are to die for; if you don¿t get interested by the title story or ¿The Star-Gazer¿s log of Summer-Time crime¿ there¿s probably something wrong with your curiosity bone.But it isn¿t all weirdness. At the heart of these stories are teenage main characters wrestling with very relatable issues like trying to navigate a dangerous friendship with the school bully, being ashamed of a parent (who in this case happens to be a Minotaur, but still) or just never having been kissed. All in all, this mix of the bizarre, the eerie, the disturbing and the humanly tender reminds me a lot of George Saunders, but without the political aspect. I¿ve yet to read Katherine Dunn, but her name comes up a lot in the blurbs too.The title story, about a pack of sisters trying to adapt to human ways, is probably my favorite, but I also loved the bleak picture of dreams lost in ¿Children¿s reminiscences of the westward migration¿ and the flaking and sad swingers extra light event in ¿Lady Yeti and the Palace of Artificial Snow¿. A few of these stories doesn¿t end quite to my satisfaction, but there isn¿t a bad one in the bunch. Highly recommended if you¿re into sisters dating ghosts, schemes to steal baby turtles, crazy sheep killers and children forced to relive some of humanity¿s great disasters night after night.One detail that isn¿t unimportant: this is a gorgeous book, with a cover that¿s both funny and just a little creepy. The kind you¿re proud to whip out and read in public.
elkeursin on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Excellent imagery and fantastic little tales. I really like how the stories bring you in to these strange little worlds and have endings that keep you thinking. Great book.
marck on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
What a shockingly original set of stories! Russell's voice is unlike anything I've read, and her images are arresting and memorable. Though I'm not a fan of present tense, I got used to that approach, which she uses (by my recollection) in every story. When I'm looking to freshen up my own voice in writing, I find myself returning to this collection and re-reading a story, just to put a little kink in my own voice for awhile and write my way out of a corner. This book *can* be a quick read, but you're doing yourself a disservice if you approach it that way.
allthesedarnbooks on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I really loved this collection of short stories. They're infused with unique characters, macabre flights of fancy, and magical realism. Although their oddities are endearing, in the end, it is the sad and lyrical humanity that shines through and makes the story memorable. They are all excellent, but if I had to pick favorites, mine would be the title story, about the children of werewolves raised in the wild being rehabilitated by nuns, and "Haunting Olivia," about two brothers wearing magical goggles to search the sea for their dead sister. Heartbreaking and beautiful, fantastical yet simple, this is a winning collection, and I will definitely be looking for other books by Russell. Highly recommended. Five stars.
ClicksClan on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Jen over at HTV has restarted the book club (which was originally started several years ago but which fizzled out in the last year) and St Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves is the first of the resurrected club's books.Unfortunately my local library (and every other library in the area) refused to acknowledge its existence. Thankfully Jen sent me her copy to borrow (I love that the internet has introduced me to some brilliant friends who are willing to send books 400 miles away so I don't miss out).The first thing that sucked me into this book has to be the cover. I mean, look at it, it's beautiful. How can you resist a book that looks like this? I mean, it's all very well to say that you shouldn't judge a book by its cover, but one that looks like this has a lot to live up to.And it did.With books that are being recommended, either through the book club or one of the trees, I try to avoid reading the blurbs or anything about them online. At least until I get to the end of the book, then I check them out to see whether I agree with them. It's probably one of those weird little quirks, but it helps me to avoid forming opinions beforehand.So it caught me as a bit of a surprise that this was a collection of short stories, I wasn't sure what to expect, so when I saw the list of story titles I realised I'd been expecting an ordinary novel. I'm so glad that it wasn't just one long story. I don't think any of the stories would have benefitted from being longer, they were just long enough to draw you in, get you well and truly into it and then wrap up. You wanted more, but the stories were complete enough... if that makes sense.I would have loved to have been able to read this all in one sitting. In fact, if I'd started it at the weekend, I would have just sat in bed and refused to move until I was done. Unfortunately I started it on a Tuesday night and then had to stop reading (because it was a work night) and take it to work with me the following day. I caught snippets of it in my breaks and finished it at last in bed that night, so it is a wonderfully quick read.The one downside to reading it this way is that I had to stop and start a couple of times during a couple of the stories and I would have been better off taking breaks at the end of the stories. They were really intriguing with little links between the stories and these little elements of magic-realism that went completely unexplained, but the stories were complete little units in themselves.The way it was written reminded me a lot of Kate Atkinson's Not The End Of The World , another book club book which I fell in love with several years ago. There were similar little fantastical elements in it as well as the links between each of the stories. As with that one, I liked to spot the links between them all.My very favourite story of the bunch was without a doubt Haunting Olivia. The story of two boys whose younger sister drifted out to sea, and who find a scuba mask allowing them to see ghosts underwater, so try to find her. It's quite sad and I just loved the way it was written.I also liked the title story, St. Lucy's Home For Girls Raised By Wolves. I'd been looking forward to reading it from the start and it didn't disappoint. It follows the girls from were-families who are taken in to a convent and taught to become humans. It was another one with a touch of sadness to it, but there's also a strong sense of humour throughout the whole story and the two balance each other out well.There were a few which were a little bit weird, like the first one Ava Wrestles The Alligator. But I wouldn't say I disliked them, I think I just needed give myself time to get the swing of the how the book was written. Even the ones which were a bit on the strange side were beautifully written, poignant and had that same humourous streak to them.I'm definitely going to have to get hold of a copy for myself at some point because it's a lovely book that deserves a reread. I desperately wanted t
sarah_rubyred on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I whizzed through this great book in about two days, the stories seem to be at just the perfect length. Though, I always get annoyed with short stories as they sometimes never deal with the subject fully enough for me!! Did Big Red and her friend ever get out of the shell?? Did the teen rebel ever visit her buddy again? And what about the daughter of the werewolf? I know you are meant to imagine yourself an ending, but sometimes I like it spelt out...like a good film I never want it to end ;)Very picturesque, I could hear the insects at night and feel the heat. Karen Russell is a bit strange and for that reason worth reading.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A collection of short stories, within fantastic and Gothic, and a slight dark humor. The stories are engaging to the point, as it happens with other short stories, that at the end you feel cheated, as if your were reading a loose chapter from a larger narrative, there is frustration of being left hanging. In all a good book, but if you like closed loops you may not enjoy it, if you want to peer into fantastic stories, even if you will never know what happened after everything went south, it will be a good one to check.