Karen Russell is one of the most talented and creative short story writers I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading. The title story of this collection is one of my favorite short stories ever, and the rest of the collection does not disappoint.
In these quirky magical realism tales, boys frantically ice skate through artificial blizzards, fat girls get stuck inside giant seashells, and a teenager takes her ghost boyfriend to swamp prom. The stories feature young characters and are hilarious and heartbreaking. They blend vivid realism and wild imagination in a way that leaves the reader feeling slightly off-kilter.
Here are a few of the stand-out stories:
In “Haunting Olivia,” two brothers set out to find their sister after she floats away on a giant crab shell. This story perfectly blends humor and devastation.
In “Children’s Reminiscences of the Westward Migration,” a Minotaur pulls his wife and children across the plains in a covered wagon. This story took me a while to get into, but the characters are so strange that I ended up loving it.
As I already mentioned, “St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves” is one of my favorite short stories ever. It’s about the nuns at St. Lucy’s Home and their attempt to turn a pack of wild wolfgirls into proper young ladies. This story is sad and weird and laugh-out-loud funny. The writing is brilliant. It’s definitely the best story in the collection.
It’s hard to come up with criticisms of this book, but I think a few of the stories went over my head a little. I didn’t feel like I totally understood their full meaning. Also, many of the characters in the stories are very similar. Every story features at least one precocious child, and I would have liked the kids to have more distinct personalities.
These are very minor criticisms. I highly recommend this book, especially if you’re in the mood for something unusual.