St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves

By Karen Russell,

Book cover of St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves

Book description

Charting loss, love, and the difficult art of growing up, these stories unfurl with wicked humour and insight. Two young boys make midnight trips to a boat graveyard in search of their dead sister, who set sail in the exoskeleton of a giant crab; a boy whose dreams foretell implacable…

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Why read it?

6 authors picked St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

I’m always impressed by how Karen Russell pulls the reader into her stories with no warning about what we’re getting into. No easing into strange situations. She places her characters in what we publicly claim can’t be real but privately know to be true.

To make a fabulist story work, images must cling to the reader’s mind like golden treacle. Each one either grounding us in the familiar or firmly establishing the unfamiliar as quotidian. Russel is a master at this. Her stories flow so easily, and her characters’ unforgettable voices hit the reader in the first paragraph.

Every story in this collection is packed with haunting beauty.

The opening story, “Ava Wrestles the Alligator,” became the jumping-off point for Russell’s later novel, Swamplandia!, but it shines all the same as a gem of a stand-alone piece.

In every creative writing class I teach, I try to work it onto the syllabus; it’s not only gorgeously written, but a prime example of how magical realism can be skillfully used to create an unreliable narrator, and how that narration opens up a universe of mysterious possibility for the reader.  

Russell has written many books that traffic in underworlds, weirdness, and magic, but for me this book—her first—takes the cake. Written when the author was just twenty-five, St. Lucy’s Home is a collection of magical coming-of-age stories—my favorite one features the children of werewolves who are sent to a rigid school with impossible rules. Russell is a poet at the sentence level—her verbs constantly do acrobatics! In these stories, she portrays adolescence as a sort of sieve in which we must leave all our wonderful weirdness behind in order to become adults.

From Elisabeth's list on fairy tales for adults.

Reading a Karen Russell short story is like riding the roller coaster at Space Mountain. Her stories are speedy, thrilling, and you’re never sure what’s coming at you. This collection, told mostly by children, amps up the thrills. Kids visit ice skating apes, wrangle alligators, hide out in oversized conch shells, search for swamp ghosts. The title story, “St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves,” takes a quirky premise—feral children are sent to a Jesuit school to learn etiquette—and ramps up the elements so that we can see the cruel, sad outcomes of molding young girls against their natures.…

From Lesley's list on short story collections by women.

Magical realism short stories have always had their corner of the market, but Karen Russell’s debut collection really made its mark and it’s not hard to see why. It’s full of bold and dynamic stories that root us in the heart of the Florida Everglades, and spin out into tales of boys searching for the ghost of their dead sister, and wild wolf girls being reintegrated into civilisation. Families take on so many different meanings in this collection, but they always feel both fantastic and real.  

From Sophie's list on strange and unusual families.

I was immediately enthralled by Russell’s voice and the magical worlds she created. Each story in this collection is imbued with a fable-like quality and told with such beautiful and evocative prose that it doesn’t matter whether or not the stories end with any sense of completion. The journey is the point, not the destination. And Russell takes the reader on ten magical and imaginative journies. This book had a significant impact on many of the stories that would end up in Lost Creatures, especially when it came to writing stories with female protagonists or from the POV of…

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