St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves, Karen Russell

I liked this collection much better than Vampires in the Lemon Grove, and it was interesting to read the first short after having read Swamplandia!, which expands upon that piece. It's an immensely entertaining and rather accessible book, despite the determined strangeness of the people and places Russell describes. The final story, after which the collection is titled, was captivating---as when, for example, one of the wolf-girls takes stock of the "purebred" girls who visit the home, throwing games of checkers in a show of misplaced pity:

I wondered what it would be like to be bred in captivity, and always homesick for a dimly sensed forest, the trees you've never seen.

The sense that there is another world, just out of reach, seems to me to pervade much of Russell's work; perhaps the beauty of her writing is that it brings this shadowland closer to us, makes the untenable suddenly seem like a hazy possibility.

Vampires in the Lemon Grove, Karen Russell


Russell is at her best with more delightful weirdness in Vampires in the Lemon Grove: women transformed into silkworms, American presidents reincarnated as horses, tailgaters for a yearly battle between whale and krill (TEAM KRILL). Not every short story is a hit, but pieces like "Proving Up" (a tale of homesteading and the marshaling of a glass window from one unsteady outpost to another) showcase her truly outstanding talent.