Excerpt from St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves by Karen Russell, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves

Stories

by Karen Russell

St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Sep 2006, 256 pages
    Paperback:
    Aug 2007, 256 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
BookBrowse Review Team

Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt


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.

Excerpted from St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves by Karen Russell Copyright © 2006 by Karen Russell. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

One-Month Free Membership

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Harmony
    Harmony
    by Carolyn Parkhurst
    In previous novels such as The Dogs of Babel and Lost and Found, Carolyn Parkhurst has shown herself...
  • Book Jacket: Commonwealth
    Commonwealth
    by Ann Patchett
    Opening Ann Patchett's novel Commonwealth about two semi-functional mid-late 20th Century ...
  • Book Jacket: A Gentleman in Moscow
    A Gentleman in Moscow
    by Amor Towles
    It is June 21, 1922, and 33-year-old Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov is convicted of being a class ...

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    The Tea Planter's Wife
    by Dinah Jefferies

    An utterly engrossing, compulsive page-turner set in 1920s Ceylon.

    Read Member Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    Darling Days
    by iO Tillett Wright

    A devastatingly powerful memoir of one young woman's extraordinary coming of age.

    Read Member Reviews

Book Discussions
Book Jacket
This Must Be the Place
by Maggie O'Farrell

An irresistible love story for fans of Beautiful Ruins and Where'd You Go, Bernadette?

About the book
Join the discussion!
Win this book!
Win Blood at the Root

Blood at the Root

"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

D C Y C Before T A H

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.

 
X

Free Weekly Newsletter

Keep up with what's happening in the world of books:
Reviews, previews, interviews and more!



Spam Free: Your email is never shared with anyone; opt out any time.