Russell, Karen

Russell, Karen - Florida Authors St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves (2006)
From Booklist
*Starred Review* Russell's short stories, some of which have been published in the New Yorker and other journals, have already generated widespread attention, as has her youth: at 24, she's been included in New York magazine's list of "25 under 25 to Watch." This unusual, haunting collection confirms that the hype is well deserved. Like the individuals in Gina Oschner's stories (People I Wanted to Be, 2005), Russell's characters are caught between overlapping worlds--living and dead, primal and civilized, animal and human--and the adolescent narrators are neither children nor adults. Even the settings, the murky swamps and coasts of the Florida Everglades, reinforce the sense of wild impermanence. In "Haunting Olivia," two brothers spend their nights diving in search of their drowned sister's ghost ("Then what? Do we Genie-in-the-bottle her?" one brother asks). The title story, about the daughters of werewolves who are sent to boarding school to learn human behavior, is unforgettable. Russell writes even the smallest details with audacious, witty precision: an acne-plagued kid's face is a "pituitary horror, a patchwork of runny sores and sebaceous dips." And her scenes deftly balance mythology and the gleeful absurdity of Monty Python with a darker urgency to acknowledge the ancient, the infinite, and the inadequacies of being human: "Marooned in a clumsy body . . . I'm an imposter, an imperfect monster," says a young diver among silvery, streamlined fish. Original and astonishing, joyful and unsettling, these are stories that will stay with readers. Gillian Engberg
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Swamplandia by Karen RussellSwamplandia! (2011)
From Booklist *Starred Review* Russell’s lavishly imagined and spectacularly crafted first novel sprang from a story in her highly praised collection, St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves (2006). Swamplandia! is a shabby tourist attraction deep in the Everglades, owned by the Bigtree clan of alligator wrestlers. When Hilola, their star performer, dies, her husband and children lose their moorings, and Swamplandia! itself is endangered as audiences dwindle. The Chief leaves. Brother Kiwi, 17, sneaks off to work at the World of Darkness, a new mainland amusement park featuring the “rings of hell.” Otherworldly sister Osceola, 16, vanishes after falling in love with the ghost of a young man who died while working for the ill-fated Dredge and Fill Campaign in the 1930s. It’s up to Ava, 13, to find her sister, and her odyssey to the Underworld is mythic, spellbinding, and terrifying. Russell’s powers reside in her profound knowledge of the great imperiled swamp, from its alligators and insects, floating orchids and invasive “strangler” melaleuca trees to the tragic history of its massacred indigenous people and wildlife. Ravishing, elegiac, funny, and brilliantly inquisitive, Russell’s archetypal swamp saga tells a mystical yet rooted tale of three innocents who come of age through trials of water, fire, and air. --Donna Seaman

Russell, Karen - Florida Authors

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