St Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves
consists of ten short stories, unconnected except that they are
all set in a surreal version of America and are all inhabited by
precociously articulate children who (in Russell's words) are
"coming alive to certain adult truths but lack the perspective
to make sense of them". For example, in "Haunting Olivia" two
boys search for their dead sister who floated out to sea on a
giant crab shell; in the title story a pack of girls raised by
their werewolf parents are educated into polite society; and in
"Ava Wrestles the Alligator" Ava is left in charge of her
family's theme park, Swamplandia, its seventy alligators and an
older sister possessed nightly by a very randy demon (Russell is
currently working on a full length novel about Ava and her
family, see sidebar).
All in all, an extraordinary, eccentric, imaginative collection of short stories on the general theme of adolescents and the trials of growing up. As always, you don't have to take BookBrowse's word for it - instead, you can read part of a short story at BookBrowse or, if you'd prefer not to be left hanging in mid-story, you can read a complete short story at the New Yorker.
About the Author: 25-year-old Karen Russell is a native
of Miami who now lives in New York City. She has been featured
in both The New Yorkers debut fiction issue and New York
Magazines list of twenty-five people to watch under the age of
twenty-five. She is a graduate of the Columbia MFA program and
is the 2005 recipient of the Transatlantic Review/Henfield
Foundation Award; her fiction has recently appeared in
Conjunctions, Granta, Zoetrope, Oxford American, and The New
Did you know? The collection's title story was originally going to be "Ava Wrestles the Alligator," but Karen's brother vetoed it on the basis that it sounded like a "Hooked on Phonics" story, so they decided to settle on what would become "St Lucy's Home for Girls Raise by Wolves" as the title story - but first Karen had to decide on a short saint's name (a short name that is, as opposed to a vertically challenged saint). She toyed with St Ulrich (the patron saint of wolves) and St Gertrude, but finally settled on St Lucy - the patron saint of blindness and authors.
This review was originally published in September 2006, and has been updated for the August 2007 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.
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