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On Sale: August 14, 2007
Pages: 208 | ISBN: 978-0-307-38763-9
Published by : Vintage Knopf

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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.


Ava Wrestles the Alligator

My sister and I are staying in Grandpa Sawtooth’s old house until our father, Chief Bigtree, gets back from the Mainland. It’s our first summer alone in the swamp. “You girls will be fine,” the Chief slurred. “Feed the gators, don’t talk to strangers. Lock the door at night.” The Chief must have forgotten that it’s a screen door at Grandpa’s—there is no key, no lock. The old house is a rust-checkered yellow bungalow at the edge of the wild bird estuary. It has a single, airless room; three crude, palmetto windows, with mosquito-blackened sills; a tin roof that hums with the memory of rain. I love it here. Whenever the wind gusts in off the river, the sky rains leaves and feathers. During mating season, the bedroom window rattles with the ardor of birds.

Now the thunder makes the thin window glass ripple like wax paper. Summer rain is still the most comforting sound that I know. I like to pretend that it’s our dead mother’s fingers, drumming on the ceiling above us. In the distance, an alligator bellows—not one of ours, I frown, a free agent. Our gators are hatched in incubators. If they make any noise at all, it’s a perfunctory grunt, bored and sated. This wild gator has an inimitable cry, much louder, much closer. I smile and pull the blankets around my chin. If Osceola hears it, she’s not letting on. My sister is lying on the cot opposite me. Her eyes are wide open, and she is smiling and smiling in the dark.

“Hey, Ossie? Is it just you in there?”

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.

“Ossie? Is it just us?” I peer into the grainy dark. There’s the chair that looks like a horned devil’s silhouette. There’s the blind glint of the terrarium glass. But no Luscious. Ossie’s evil boyfriend has yet to materialize.

“Yup,” she whispers. “Just us.” Ossie sounds wonderfully awake. She reaches over and pats my arm.

“Just us girls.”

That does it. “Just us!” we scream. And I know that for once, Ossie and I are picturing the same thing. Miles and miles of swamp, and millions and millions of ghosts, and just us, girls, bungalowed in our silly pajamas.

We keep giggling, happy and nervous, tickled by an incomplete innocence. We both sense that some dark joke is being played on us, even if we can’t quite grasp the punch line.

“What about Luscious?” I gasp. “You’re not dating Luscious anymore?”

Uh-oh. There it is again, that private smile, the one that implies that Ossie is nostalgic for places I have never been, places I can’t even begin to imagine.

Ossie shakes her head. “Something else, now.”

“Somebody else? You’re not still going to, um,” I pause, trying to remember her word, “elope? Are you?”

Ossie doesn’t answer. “Listen,” she breathes, her eyes like blown embers. The thunder has gentled to a soft nicker. Outside, something is scratching at our dripping window. “He’s here.”

You know, Ossie’s possessions are nothing like those twitch-fests you read about in the Bible, no netherworld voices or pigs on a hill. Her body doesn’t smolder like a firecracker, or ululate in dead languages. Her boyfriends possess her in a different way. They steal over her, silking into her ears and mouth and lungs, stealthy and pervasive, like sickness or swallowed water. I watch her metamorphosis in guilty, greedy increments. Ossie is sweating. Ossie is heavy-breathing. She puts her fist in her mouth, her other hand disappearing beneath the covers.

Then she moans, softly.

And I get that peculiar knot of fear and wonder and anger, the husk that holds my whole childhood. Here is another phase change that I don’t understand, solid to void, happening in such close proximity to me. The ghost is here. I know it, because I can see my sister disappearing, can feel the body next to me emptying of my Ossie, and leaving me alone in the room. Luscious is her lewdest boyfriend yet. The ghost is moving through her, rolling into her hips, making Ossie do a jerky puppet dance under the blankets. This happens every night, lately, and I’m helpless to stop him. Get out of here, Luscious! I think very loudly. Get back in your grave! You leave my sister alone. . . .

Hag-ridden, her cot is starting to swing.

I am so jealous of Ossie. Every time the lights flicker in a storm, or a dish clatters to the floor, it’s a message from her stupid boyfriend. The wind in her hair, the wind in the trees, all of it a whistled valentine. And meanwhile who is busy decapitating stinking ballyhoo for the gators? Who is plunging the Bigtree latrines, and brushing the plaster teeth inside the Gator Head? Exactly. At sixteen, Ossie is four years my senior and twice my height. Yet somehow I’m the one who gets stuck doing all the work. That’s the reward for competence, I guess. When the Chief left, he put me in charge of the whole park.

Our family owns Swamplandia!, the island’s #1 Gator Theme Park and Swamp Café, although lately we’ve been slipping in the rankings. You may have seen our wooden sign, swinging from the giant kapok tree on Route 6: COME SEE SETH, FANGSOME SEA SERPENT AND ANCIENT LIZARD OF DEATH!!! All of our alligators, we call “Seth.” Tradition is as important, the Chief says, as promotional materials are expensive. When my mother was alive, she ran the show, literally. Mom took care of all the shadowy, behind-the-scenes stuff: clubbing sick gators, fueling up the airboats, butchering chickens. I didn’t even know these ugly duties existed. I’m pretty sure Ossie is still oblivious. Osceola doesn’t have to do chores. “Your sister is special,” the Chief has tried to explain to me, on more than one occasion. I don’t cotton to this sophist logic. I’m special too. My name is a palindrome. I can climb trees with simian ease. I can gut buckets of chub fish in record time. Once Grandpa Sawtooth held a dead Seth’s jaws open, and I stuck my whole head in his fetid mouth.

There are only two Swamplandia! duties that I can’t handle on my own: stringing up the swamp hens on Live Chicken Thursdays, and pulling those gators out of the water. This means that I can’t compete in the junior leagues, or perform solo. It doesn’t bother me enough to make me braver. I still refuse to wade into the pit, and anyways, I am too weak to get my own gator ashore. Our show is simple: the headlining wrestler, usually the Chief, wades into the water, making a big show of hunting the sandy bottom for his Seth. Then he pulls a gator out by its thrashing tail. The gator immediately lurches forward, yanking the Chief back into the water. The Chief pulls him out again, and again the infuriated gator pulls my father towards the water. This tug-of-war goes on for a foamy length of time, while the crowd whoops and wahoos, cheering for our species.

Finally, the Chief masters his Seth. He manages to get him landlocked and clamber onto his back. This is the part where I come in. Aunt Hilola strikes up a manic tune on the calliope—ba-da-DOOM-bop-bop!—and then I’m cartwheeling out across the sand, careful to keep a grin on my face even as I land on the gator’s armor-plated scutes. My thighs are waffled with the shadow of those scutes. Up close, the Seths are beautiful, with corrugated gray-green backs and dinosaur feet. The Chief, meanwhile, has taken advantage of my showy entrance to lasso black electrical tape around the Seth’s snout. He takes my bare hands and holds them up to the crowd, splaying my little palms for their amusement.

Then he closes them around Seth’s jaws. I smile and smile at the tourists. Inside my tight fist, the Seth strains and strains against the tape. The Chief keeps his meaty hands on top of my own, obscuring the fact that I am doing any work at all. The Chief likes to remind me that the tourists don’t pay to watch us struggle.

At some point, I must have dozed off, because when I wake up the screen door is banging in the wind. I glance at my watch: 12:07. When Mom was alive, Ossie had a ten o’clock curfew. I guess technically she still does, but nobody’s here to enforce it. She lets Luscious possess her for hours at a time. It makes me furious to think about this, and a little jeal- ous, Luscious taking Ossie’s body on a joy ride through the swamp. I worry about her. She could be deep into the slash pines by now, or halfway to the pond. But if I leave the house, then I’ll be breaking the rules, too. I pull the covers over my head and bite my lip. A surge of unused adrenaline leaves me feeling sick and quakey. The next thing I know, I’m yanking my boots on and running out the door, as if I were the one possessed.

Strange lights burn off the swamp at night. Overhead, the clouds stretch across the sky like some monstrous spider- web, dewed with stars. Tiny planes from the Mainland whir towards the yellow moon, only to become cobwebbed by cloud. Osceola is much easier than an animal to track. She’s mowed a drunken path through the scrub. The reeds grow tall and thick around me, hissing in the wind like a thousand vipers. Every few steps, I glance back at the receding glow of the house.

Several paces ahead of me, I see a shape that turns into Ossie, pushing through the purple cattails. She’s used hot spoons and egg dye to style her hair into a lavender vapor. It trails behind her, steaming out of her skull, as if Ossie were the victim of a botched exorcism. The trick is to catch Osceola off guard, to stalk her obliquely behind the dark screen of mangrove trees, and then ambush her with my Flying-Squirrel Super Lunge. If you try to stop her head-on, you don’t stand a chance. My sister is a big girl, edging on two hundred pounds, with three extra eyeteeth and a jaguar bite. Also, she is in love. During her love spells, she rolls me off her shoulders with a mindless ox-twitch, and steps right over me.

What is she going to do with Luscious? I wonder. What does she do out there with Luscious for hours every night? I’m more fearful than curious, and now she is waist-deep in the saw grass, an opal speck shrinking into the marsh. At odd intervals, rumbling above the insect drone, I hear one of the wild gators bellow. For a monster, it’s a strangely plaintive sound to make: long and throaty, full of a terrible sweetness, like the Chief’s voice grown gruff with emotion. Ever since he left us, I am always listening for it. It’s a funny kind of comfort in the dark.

As I watch, Ossie moves beyond the clarity of moonlight and the silver-green cattails, subsumed into the black mangroves. A new noise starts soon after.

I pace along the edge of the marsh, too afraid to follow her, not for the first time. This is it, this is the geographical limit of how far I’ll go for Ossie. We are learning latitude and longitude in school, and it makes my face burn that I can graph the coordinates of my own love and courage with such damning precision. I walk along the dots of the invisible line, peering after her. There’s a syrupy quality to this kind of night: it’s humid and impenetrable, pouring over me. I stand there until Ossie is lost to sight.

“Ossie . . . ?” It’s only a half-yell, the very least I can do. Then, spooked by the sound of my own voice, I turn and walk quickly back towards the bungalow. It’s her body, I think, it’s her business. Besides, Ossie likes being lovesick. How do you treat a patient who denies there’s anything wrong?

Behind me, the bellows intensify. I walk faster.

Most people think that gators have only two registers, hunger and boredom. But these people have never heard an alligator bellow. “Languidge,” Ms. Huerta, our science teacher, likes to lisp, “is what separates us from the animals.” But that’s just us humans being snobby. Alligators talk to one another, and to the moon, with a woman’s stridency.

From the Hardcover edition.
Karen Russell|Author Q&A

About Karen Russell

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

Photo © Joanne Chan

Karen Russell, a native of Miami, won the 2012 National Magazine Award for fiction, and her first novel, Swamplandia! (2011), was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. She is a graduate of the Columbia MFA program, a 2011 Guggenheim Fellow, and a 2012 Fellow at the American Academy in Berlin. She lives in Philadelphia.

Karen Russell is represented by Random House Speakers Bureau (http://www.rhspeakers.com).

Author Q&A

A Conversation with
Karen Russell
author of
St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves

Q: Let’s address the elephant in the room: you’re twenty-four and Ben Marcus hails you as a “literary mystic” and calls your book a “miracle.” You were in New York magazine’s 25 Under 25 To Watch. What does that feel like?
A: GREAT! I mean, I should probably have a more mature and measured response to that question. But really I am just bursting with joy and gratitude, of the slack-jawed, awestruck variety. This book is a miracle to me—it’s a miracle that it has an ISBN number and a cover, that it exists as a book at all when for so long it was just an ungainly word file on my computer. At this time last year, I would have been happy to place a story with the Journal of Spotted Dogs. To have found a home for the collection, it’s the great miracle of my life to date. My dream really did come true, which I think is a rare and wonderful thing to get to say.

The focus on my age is a little funny to me; I mean, in some ways it seems like I should have accomplished a lot more by now. When I was at the New York magazine photo shoot, I was sitting next to fourteen year olds who had starred in Broadway musicals and invented and patented molecules. I was really flattered to be included with such an impressive group, but I also felt like a bit of a fool. Did I play three instruments with the philharmonic? Had I invented an incubator that ran on corn syrup and marbles? No, I had to inform people, no, I just imagined stuff. Pretty humbling!

Q: The ten stories in ST. LUCY’S HOME FOR GIRLS RAISED BY WOLVES are mostly narrated by children. Was this a conscious choice?
A: It just sort of happened that way; I never sat down to write a collection narrated by children and adolescents. But more often than not, those were the voices I ended up taking dictation from.
Sometimes I’d consciously resist the child/adolescent perspective—in an earlier draft, I tried to write “Children Remember Westward” from the point of view of an older Minotaur named Jax, and thank God that didn’t work out!

Maybe because adolescence is still green terrain for me, that’s the place that I kept wanting to return to. A lot of my protagonists are stuck between worlds, I think, coming alive to certain adult truths but lacking the perspective to make sense of them. There’s something about that blend of adult knowingness and innocence that I find incredibly compelling. For better or for worse, that’s the voice that I feel most drawn to at this moment. In future collections, I’d love to try and channel different sorts of voices, older, fainter, stranger voices.

Q: In “The Star-Gazer’s Log of Summer-Time Crime,” the protagonist muses, “I guess that’s what growing up means, at least according to the publishing industry: phosphorescence fades to black-and-white, and facts cease to be fun.” The title story, “St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves” is about a pack of 15 girls, raised by wolves, who are taken away from their parents and reeducated by nuns to enter civilized society. What are you saying about the nature of growing up?
A: Uh-oh! These sorts of questions always make me nervous, because to be honest I feel I’m lying a little bit, making up a story about my stories. For starters, I don’t want to sound like a dufus—anything that I’m trying to say about the nature of growing up, I’m sure other writers before me have said with greater insight and eloquence. Also, if I could just say the thing outright, I probably wouldn’t need to strand my young protagonists inside giant shells or exile them from their wolf-parents. They could just play whiffle ball and eat ham sandwiches for awhile, and then one day they’d wake up adults.

There’s this line that I love from a Mark Jarman poem: “and like the joy of being, and becoming.” And I wanted some of that joy to come through in these stories. But I also think the underbelly of that feeling is this dark and ferocious sense of loss. In the title story, for example: who exactly are those wolf-girls en route to becoming?

Q: The parents in your collection are often absent or tragically flawed: a proud Minotaur for a father, a mother who is always “draped over some jowly older individual,” a set of wolves for parents. Seems pretty tough to be a kid these days, at least for your characters.
A: I think it’s pretty tough to be a parent, too. I wouldn’t judge the parents in this collection too harshly; that Minotaur, for example, has to struggle against prejudice and the prison of his own anatomy as well as, you know, snakes. And also dysentery, and the impossible price of corn. Or the wolf-parents, who wanted a better life for their children. That sort of fierce parental love can warp into strange shapes when confronted with the outside world and its dangers, I think.

And it is hard to be a kid these days! I don’t know if it’s like this for everybody, but I felt like I was born with a deep and queasy suspicion that something is awry. I think the hard part is that most kids have this sense that they have to set this “something” right, despite a poor match between the world’s problems and their puny kid-resources.

On a side note, I should mention, just because I’m paranoid about readers mistaking this, that these parents are not my parents. My parents are the most wonderful people you will ever meet. My mother would only drape herself over a jowly older individual if he required the Heimlich. My father is a deeply wise and kind and humble man, and mercifully he’s 100 percent human, no kind of Minotaur.

Q: How did you come to pick the title story? Is “St. Lucy’s” your favorite or did you just decide it was a good title?
A: “St. Lucy’s” is my favorite story, most of the time, but all of these stories have been my favorite at one point or another. Most recently it was “Accident Brief,” which was a “troubled” story that didn’t look like it was going to make it into the collection for awhile. It’s like asking, who do you love more, the straight-A, varsity athlete or your wall-eyed mulligan child? My favorite story is often the one that nobody wants to take to the prom. Then I just want to tamp down its cowlick and put it in orthopedic sneakers and set it to dancing.

As for the title, it was originally going to be “Ava Wrestles the Alligator.” Then my brother strenuously vetoed this, on the grounds that it sounded like a “Hooked on Phonics” story. I seriously considered all sorts of bad titles (see below), some of which I can’t even admit to here. At first, I thought “St. Lucy’s” was too long to be the title, but it really grew on me. My agent suggested that I find a new saint’s name (originally, St. Lucy was St. Augusta, making the title even longer!). So I dug up my old “Catholic Picture Book of the Saints” and did a lot of lame internal agonizing about the relative merits of St. Ulrich (the patron saint of wolves, but too much like Skeet Ulrich?) and St. Gertrude (too much of a hiccupy g sound in the title?). Finally I settled on Lucy, always a favorite name of mine. Lucy is the patron saint of blindness, which seemed to work thematically given the “blindness to vision” reformatory promises made by the school. Also she’s the patron saint of authors, and I’ll take whatever help I can get.

Other titles we considered include:

-Cheering for our Species (My agent suggested this one, from a phrase in the “Ava” story. I liked this one a lot, actually, but I was also worried about the cover art that such a title would inspire. I pictured a bear in a pleated cheerleading skirt, doing a half split, the book’s title coming out of her megaphone in bubble letters. Like a Bernstein bear, but sluttier.)

-Swimming Past Extinction (Dave King wisely informed me that gerunds in titles are so passe!)

-Children Remember the Westward Migration (My Dad said this sounded too much like a History Channel snooze-fest.)

Q: Many of the stories in ST. LUCY’S are set in the surreal marshes of the Florida Everglades, which is an area you’re familiar with. Why do you prefer this setting? Do you think you’d be writing about the same places if you grew up on a farm in Iowa?
A: Florida, if you haven’t been, is a place that you should go. Southern Florida is a separate universe from the rest of the country. The ocean and the swamp offer all sorts of metaphoric seductions, I guess, but they are also literally, unfathomably mysterious. The Everglades in particular must be one of the strangest places in the world. Weird stuff washes ashore. Tiny, prehistoric lizards live in your mailbox. I don’t think you realize until you leave South Florida how bizarre and wonderful it is. For example, the manatee. My family and I would feed lettuce to this cow that lived under the water, a hundred feet from the house. It wasn’t until I went to college in the Midwest that I realized how strange and special this transaction was.

It’s also a community of Cuban exiles, and I’m sure that Miami’s second-generation sadness got into my bloodstream somehow. It’s in the water supply down there, this hereditary nostalgia. All those festivals in Little Havana, old women shouting themselves hoarse with a sort of boisterous homesickness.

As for Iowa, I think that setting gives rise to theme and meaning in a lot of these stories, but it works the other way, too. I’m sure I’d have found a way to graft my preoccupations onto Iowan farms. There’d be ghosts in cornfield and old aeroplane hangars. Wallow and Timothy would find a supernatural horseshoe or something. The Bigtrees would wrestle milk cows.

Q: Who are your literary influences?
A: Flannery O’Connor, Kelly Link, Steven King, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Mark Richard, Wallace Stevens, Carson McCuller, Mary Gaitskill, Alexander Hemon, Italo Calvino, Nabokov, Katherine Dunn, Ray Bradbury….yeesh, I could go on. I had this private/public reading split when I was a kid, Austen and Dumas and those Brontes for the adults, “Fear Street” and Frank Herbert in private.

Q: What in your own life made you want to become a writer?
A: Reading, definitely. I loved reading so much; I mean, I still do, but not with that sort of illicit midnight intensity. I was such an anxious kid, and reading was a way out. At sleepovers, I would sneak away and lock myself in the bathroom and read the other kids’ books. Here was a way to step-out of your child’s body and into the mind of a Salem witch or a bunch of warring rabbits. It’s still amazing to me. It was spooky and intimate and totally intoxicating, to step into an author’s private rooms. I’d read the words and they became my rooms. Then I wanted to be a writer myself, to do to others what these authors were doing for me.

At the risk of sounding like a lameball, it’s true magic. You can put three letters on a page, “owl,” and send an owl swooping through another person’s brain. Maybe “owl” is not the most compelling example here—picture a stranger bird, or a bunch of birds. It’s a weird semantic migration, writing and reading. Picture a flock of birds alighting from the writer’s brain and converging inside the reader, this strange shuddering weight settling on the branches of the reader’s mind. Now I’m probably over-romanticizing a good bit—it doesn’t always feel that way, not if you’re reading the classifieds or writing in your sweats. But there is something bizarre and wonderful to me about the whole enterprise.

I’m also still at a stage where it feels a little embarrassing and fraudulent to self-identify as a writer. Smarmy, even. I’m still trying to get used to that.

Joan Didion has this quote about how writers tend to be anxious “keepers of notebooks” afflicted with a “presentiment of loss,” and I think that’s as good a hypothesis as any. I found one of my first-grade notebooks recently, and I see that I had some early templates for plot. My first story, in its totality, was: “Once upon the time there was a forest of peaceful unicorns. Then there was a flood!”

Q: I hear that this is your second encounter with book publishing. What was your first?
A: I worked for Persea Books, this truly fantastic independent press that in retrospect should probably never have hired me. When I said I was “proficient in Excel,” what I meant was that I’d seen Excel spreadsheets on other, smarter people’s computers. I’m pretty sure I only got the job because of my huge ugly coat, this trash-man coat that could double as a life-saving tent in a blizzard. My boss needed somebody who could walk through blinding snow to the post office, and after pinching the fabric of my coat, he determined that somebody was me. I could have sent that coat in on a hanger to my interview, and it would have gotten me the job. At Persea, I worked “publicity;” in practice, I sent emails and I sorted regular mail and on Thursday I took the trash out. I liked taking the trash out because it was so frequently filled with my mistakes—reams of misprints and upside-down letterhead. I can’t tell you how many Jiffy bags erupted because of my shoddy tape-jobs. Did you know there is a wrong way to staple? It’s true. I have thumb scars to prove it. I loved that job and the folks at Persea, but it probably wasn't the best match with my skill set.

Q: In an interview with the New Yorker after “Haunting Olivia” was published in its annual Debut Fiction issue, you said that writing short stories is like a string of first dates. What did you mean by that?
A: Stories are great for the commitment-shy. Whenever I begin a new story, I have to fight down a rabid, bride-to-be hopefulness—is this story “the One?” Will our casual fling blossom into a 600-page novel? Then, the initial thrill wears off, and it’s a struggle to keep the conversation moving forward. Somewhere around the late-middle of most stories, I get a panicky, “check, please!” feeling. And then it’s over, and I get to exit the story with a misty gratitude for our time together, and a deep relief that we never have to see each other again.

Of course, I haven’t gone on enough first dates or written nearly enough stories to legitimately make this analogy. I'm basing this on a small group of stories and one stupendously awkward night at an Ethiopian restaurant.

Q: You’re a recent graduate of the Columbia M.F.A. program. Are you still involved in with a community of writers in New York and is that important to you?
A: Well, technically I don’t graduate until August, but many of my friends from the program have already graduated and moved away. Which has been a tough adjustment this year, after two blissful years of reading and writing and hanging out. I met the most amazing people in my Columbia workshops, and I hope that we will continue to be each others’ friends and readers for life. I’m not actively involved with any workshop group right now, but I definitely do still feel hooked into a supportive community. And I live with my best friend, Carey McHugh, the best poet this side of Jupiter–watch for her to win the National Book Award. We “support each other’s writing,” by which I mean we curse like sailors about not writing enough and watch a lot of "America’s Next Top Model."

Q: What are you working on right now?
A: I’m working on a coupla new stories and a novel, Swamplandia!, about the Bigtree Family Wrestling Dynasty. (Ignore what I just said about “America’s Next Top Model.”) It’s set in the Florida swamp, and it picks up where “Ava Wrestles the Alligator” leaves off.

From the Hardcover edition.



“A master of tone and texture and an authority on the bizarre, Karen Russell writes with great flair and fearlessness.” —Carlo Wolff, The Denver Post“How I wish these were my own words, instead of breakneck demon writer Karen Russell’s, whose stories begin, in prose form, where the jabberwock left off. . . . Run for your life. This girl is on fire.” —Susan Salter Reynolds, Los Angeles Times Book Review“Karen Russell is a storyteller with a voice like no other. . . . Laced with humor and compassion.” —Lauren Gallo, People“One of the strangest, creepiest, most surreal collections of tales published in recent memory. . . . Her writing bristles with confidence.” —June Sawyers, San Francisco Chronicle“Twent-five--year-old wunderkind Karen Russell . . . proves herself a mythologist of the darkest and most disturbing sort. . . . Ten unforgettable, gorgeously imaginative tales.”—Jenny Feldman, Elle

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