Monday, December 8, 2008

St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves

From the book:
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 tragedies is sent to ‘Sleepaway Camp for Disordered Dreamers’ (cabin 1, Narcoleptics; Cabin 2, Insomniacs; Cabin 3, Somnambulist..); a Minotaur leads his family on the trail out West, and finally in the collection’s poignant and hilarious title story, fifteen girls raised by wolves are painstakingly re-civilised by nuns.
My two cents worth:
This must be one of the weirdest collection of short stories that I have ever read in my life. Karen Russel’s short stories mostly feature young characters; sisters living in a Gator Theme Park, a young boy and his family lead by a father who is a Minotaur to a new world of opportunities, girls who were raised by wolves and re-educated to fit in with the ‘purebred’ human society.
Most of the stories presented feature characters that live in the Florida’s everglades, so in that sense I learnt a lot from the book about the geographical and environmental offerings of the setting. Seriously never knew there were endangered sea turtles in that part of the world. So, I learn something new from the book.
The stories mostly touch on the end of adolescence, with the characters discovering about sexuality, responsibility, fitting into society; themes that are reflective of youth moving on to adulthood. The tales are short, mystic, haunting some enjoyable and some are not.
What frustrates me about Russel’s stories is that they end abruptly. What I like about Russel’s writing is her style; unique storylines and the language used to describe a person or a situation. However, I do somehow feel that the words she uses maybe a bit too big to reflect characters that are at such a young age. (I think there were about three or four words that I had to look up in the dictionary while reading this book and I’m 33! To be fair, I’m Malaysian and English is a second language so the words use may not be bombastic to most other readers).

Overall, the book was different. The stories are unique. The themes had some depth. I finished the book with a bit of jealousy towards Karen Russel’s writing abilities; who at 25 was able to come up with tales that is imaginative and surreal. My favourite among the ten featured is ‘Haunting Olivia’.

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