St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised By Wolves – Karen Russell (2006, Alfred A. Knopf, New York)
I’ve been meaning to read Russell’s Swamplandia! for awhile now (and still haven’t), but as a teaser, I’ve been devouring her short stories, both in this collection and a later book, Vampires in the Lemon Grove.
Russell is a woman with a very fertile imagination and a writing style that makes me drool. These stories are just the right kind of wild off-the-wall, where everything is turned on its head: the great western migration is undertaken by a family with a minotaur for a patriarch, two kids sneak into the Palace of Artificial Snows and learn some things about the adults in their lives that they really didn’t want to know, and a lonely little girl named Big Red gets stuck in a conch shell with a groundskeeper. In the titular story, the children of werewolves are reintegrated into polite society with mixed results, and in “Ava Wrestles the Alligator,” a Swamplandia! side story, twelve year old Ava tries to keep the Gator Theme Park and Swamp Cafe under control while her father is away. Not an easy task, especially as she also has to keep tabs on her older sister Ossie, who is up to no good with her succubus boyfriend.
My older sister has entire kingdoms inside of her, and some of them are only accessible at certain seasons, in certain kinds of weather. One such melting occurs in summer rain, at midnight, during the vine-green breathing time right before sleep. You have to ask the right question, throw the right rope bridge, to get there – and then bolt across the chasm between you, before your bridge collapses.
– From “Ava Wrestles the Alligator”
Weird, dark, crazy fun. Call me an instant fan.