Cayr's Reviews > St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves

St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves by Karen Russell
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Mar 15, 2008

it was amazing
bookshelves: my-all-time-faves
Read from November 17 to December 05, 2010

St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves is a remarkable book. Thanks to Karen Russell (and Sherman Alexie), I have gained a new respect for the short story genre.

This is a collection of impossibly inventive tales. Each story centers on a child at the awkward age of 12-15, but the protagonists are children in the most unusual circumstances, navigating rites of passage in fantastical settings among people of inventive heritage.

There are sisters who are caretakers of a crocodile wrestling park, (one of them possessed by a carnal demon); There are two brothers who spend their nights rowing a crab shell boat around an island in search of the ghost of their drowned sister; There is a boy of pirate heritage who sings avalanches down a mountain; There is a boy who travels west on a wagon train with his family, their wagon pulled by his minotaur father; There is a girl stuck in a giant conch seashell at a seashell museum; There is a boy who attends a sleep disorder camp; and there is the title story, which is the last in the book, about a group of siblings whose Werewolf parents give them up to nuns, in hopes that they will find a way to fit into normal society.

I've seen a number of reviews here that say the stories are all too similar. If by similar, you mean written in the same voice - well, every author has a voice, and this one is Karen Russell's. Whose voice should she write in if not her own? If by similar you mean that all of them are imaginative, all of them are quite strange, and all of them are wholly original, then yes - they are similar. They all do have a similar thread, which is the self-conscious awkwardness of children of a certain age. Some of the stories are completely engrossing, only to leave the reader hanging at the end, wondering what would happen next. Russell invents these imaginative scenarios without pinning them to a specific place. Some readers here have suggested Florida as a setting, but the island stories seem far more tropic, and the swamp story far to bayou. As for the glacial mountain...the pirate heritage and southern pacific names create an incongruous history, and an anomalous geography.

I certainly hope Ms. Russell has more of this strange stuff to share.
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