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St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves…

St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves (2006)

by Karen Russell

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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896409,849 (3.79)92
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Though many of these short stories make promises they don't keep (fantastic exposition / character development that ultimately falls short with a premature ending) their sheer innovative power is more than enough to make up for this shortcoming. The topics which preoccupy Russell (family relationships, adolescence, alienation, and grotesqueries of all kinds) are compelling even as she re-figures them in a number of ways. ( )
  milkyfangs | Jun 27, 2014 |
Every piece in this book is inventive, imaginative and energetic. But not every piece in this book feels like a short story.

The fault is partially that it begins with "Ava Wrestles the Alligator," which has subsequently been expanded into the excellent novel Swamplandia! Because I read Swamplandia! before the story, it felt more like a fragment. That impression cast itself over many, but not all, of the other pieces in the book.

But there is no short changing Russell's imagination. Most of the stories take place in island vacation spots, often featuring attractions that range from the more realistic (alligator wrestling) to the more imaginative (sledding on giant crab shells, a blizzard-filled skating rink, and a set of giant conches likened to Easter Island).

A few of the stories feature a combination of mythical and human, like the human daughter of a minotaur who used to work in rodeos and the girls raised by werewolves featured in the title story ("Our pack grew up in a green purgatory. We couldn't keep up with the purebred wolves, but we never stopped crawling. We spoke a slab-tonged pidgin in the cave, inflected with frequent howls. Our parents wanted something better for us; they wanted us to get braces, use towels, be fully bilingual.")

Nearly all of the stories are told in the first person from the perspective of a child (as many of them boys as girls), generally a coming of age story of a precocious, nearly-feral child. The child often has the run of whatever place is being described, in many cases with distant parents, step parents, or even no parents, but still has not mastered their surroundings.

My three favorites were "Haunting Olivia", "the Star-Gazer's Log of Summer-Time Crime" and "The City of Shells", although all of them were enjoyable and worthwhile reading. ( )
  nosajeel | Jun 21, 2014 |
The goods: strong metaphors, great stories, strong characterization

The bads: strong metaphors, great stories , strong characterization

You will either love her or hate her. In today's world of quick-and-easy fiction vs. things-you-have-think-about fiction, she falls somewhere in the middle, but closer to things-you-have-to-think-about. ( )
  veranasi | Jan 17, 2014 |
This is a simply-told but visually vibrant collection of coming-of-age stories, enhanced with fantastical elements that mix the confusions of childhood with the confusions of ghost stories, myths, and magic. The stories are all thematically similar -- a young girl or boy must leave their childhood comfort zone to confront a bizarre element of adulthood. But the individual settings of each story are creative and strange, mostly in the realm of magical realism but balanced enough to feel relatable. (Not quite on the over-the-top dream logic level of my favorite short story writer, Kelly Link.)

I thought the strongest story was the titular "St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves", in which the all-human children of a werewolf pack are taken in to learn how to integrate into society. Maybe it stuck out especially because it's one of the only stories with plot progression that leads to a clear ending. Many of the stories here have emotional arcs moreso than story arcs -- they're like a vivid memory that you know was a turning point in your impression of the world, but you sense that if you explained it to someone else it wouldn't necessarily be clear what the point was. I sometimes prefer a more structured story, but once you get used to this style it becomes easier to accept.

My personal favorite was "From Children's Reminisces of the Westward Migration", in which a young boy and his family travel west seeking a better life, but encounter some prejudice from their fellow travelers towards the boy's father, who is a Minotaur. It's almost natural to imagine a child seeing their father as a mythic figure, pulling the family's wagon with his own strength, so it's interesting to see this idea stretched to its literal limits. The fantastic elements of the stories are all like this -- at face value they're strange, but in the back of your mind they make perfect sense. ( )
1 vote thatpirategirl | Jan 16, 2014 |
The stories don't have endings, and only a few of the not-endings were done well. The rest just seem unfinished.
The title story is fantastic, but I don't care for many of the rest. ( )
  DeFor | Nov 28, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 37 (next | show all)
Narrated by strange, quiet children and nestled deep in the mystique of the Everglades, Karen Russell’s stories are unnerving, darkly funny, and immensely enjoyable. Their standard recipe takes a common coming-of-age theme—“my parents are lunatics,” “death is part of life,” “growing up is hard”—folds it into a surreal situation—“my dad is a Minotaur,” “I am trapped in a giant conch shell with a janitor,” “my 14 sisters and I were raised by werewolves and now nuns are trying to prepare us for life in polite society”—and tops it off with superb, efficient sentences.

» Add other authors (2 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Karen Russellprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Carson, Carol DevineCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tan, VirginiaDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0307276678, Paperback)

A San Francisco Chronicle, Los Angeles Times, and Chicago Tribune Best Book of the Year

In these ten glittering stories, debut author Karen Russell 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 stunning inventiveness and heart, St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves introduces a radiant new writer.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:31:32 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

In these ten stories, Karen Russell takes us to the ghostly and magical swamps of the Florida Everglades. Here wolflike girls are reformed by nuns, a family makes their living wrestling alligators in a theme park, and little girls sail away on crab shells.… (more)

» see all 4 descriptions

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