Summary and book reviews of St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves by Karen Russell

St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves

Stories

By Karen Russell

St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves
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  • Hardcover: Sep 2006,
    256 pages.
    Paperback: Aug 2007,
    256 pages.

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Book Summary

A dazzling debut, a blazingly original voice: the ten stories in St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves introduce a radiant new talent.

In the collection’s title story, a pack of girls raised by wolves are painstakingly reeducated by nuns. In “Haunting Olivia,” two young boys make midnight trips to a boat graveyard in search of their dead sister, who set sail in the exoskeleton of a giant crab. In “Z.Z.’s Sleepaway Camp for Disordered Dreamers,” a boy whose dreams foretell implacable tragedies is sent to a summer camp for troubled sleepers (Cabin 1, Narcoleptics; Cabin 2, Sleep Apneics; Cabin 3, Somnambulists . . . ). And “Ava Wrestles the Alligator” introduces the remarkable Bigtree Wrestling Dynasty—Grandpa Sawtooth, Chief Bigtree, and twelve-year-old Ava—proprietors of Swamplandia!, the island’s #1 Gator Theme Park and Café. Ava is still mourning her mother when her father disappears, his final words to her the swamp maxim “Feed the gators, don’t talk to strangers.” Left to look after seventy incubating alligators and an older sister who may or may not be having sex with a succubus, Ava meets the Bird Man, and learns that when you’re a kid it’s often hard to tell the innocuous secrets from the ones that will kill you if you keep them.

Russell’s stories are beautifully written and exuberantly imagined, but it is the emotional precision behind their wondrous surfaces that makes them unforgettable. Magically, from the spiritual wilderness and ghostly swamps of the Florida Everglades, against a backdrop of ancient lizards and disconcertingly lush plant life—in an idiom that is as arrestingly lovely as it is surreal—Karen Russell shows us who we are and how we live.

Ava Wrestles the Alligator

My 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 ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse

An extraordinary, eccentric, imaginative collection of short stories on the general theme of adolescents and the trials of growing up.   (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).

Full Review Members Only (914 words).

Media Reviews
Author Blurb Gary Shteyngart, author of The Russian Debutante’s Handbook
Hallelujah! Karen Russell’s work sweeps the ground from beneath your feet and replaces it with something new and wondrous, part Florida swampland, part holy water. A confident, auspicious, unforgettable debut.

Publishers Weekly

Russell hasn't quite found a theme beyond growing up is hard to do ...[but] her assorted siblings are rendered with winning flair as they gambol, perilously and charmingly, toward adulthood.

Entertainment Weekly

With this weird, wondrous debut, 25–year–old Russell blows up the aphorism ‘Age equals experience.’

Time Out (Chicago)

Most writers her age haven’t yet matched Russell’s chief achievement: honing a voice so singular and assured that you’d willingly follow it into dark, lawless territory. Which, as it happens, is exactly where it leads us.

Chicago Tribune

Originality, surrealism and eccentricity . . . one can sense Russell’s enthusiasm and playfulness, both of which she has in spades.

Reader Reviews
Cariola

Unique
I have mixed feelings about Russell's collection. "Weird" might be a better word than "unique," and at times I felt like she was being weird for weirdness sake. Don't get me wrong--weird can be great, but I like it to have some meaning or purpose. ...   Read More

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How does Russel feel to be listed as one of 25 Under 25 to Watch in New York Magazine?
"I am just bursting with joy and gratitude, of the slack-jawed, awestruck variety. This book is a miracle to me—it’s a miracle that it has an ISBN number and a cover, that it exists as a book at all when for so long it was just an ungainly word file on my computer. At this time last year, I would have been happy to place a story with The Journal of Spotted Dogs. To have found a home for the collection, it’s the great miracle of my life to date. My dream really did...

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