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Publisher's Summary

A dazzling debut, a blazingly original voice: the 10 stories in St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves introduce a radiant new talent.

In the collection's title story, a pack of girls raised by wolves are painstakingly reeducated by nuns. In "Haunting Olivia", 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. In "Sleepaway Camp for Disordered Dreamers", a boy whose dreams foretell implacable tragedies is sent to a summer camp for troubled sleepers (Cabin 1, Narcoleptics; Cabin 2, Sleep Apneics; Cabin 3, Somnambulists . . . ). "And Ava Wrestles the Alligator" introduces the remarkable Bigtree Wrestling Dynasty: Grandpa Sawtooth, Chief Bigtree, and 12-year-old Ava, proprietors of Swamplandia!, the island's number-one Gator Theme Park and Cafe, Ava is still mourning her mother when her father disappears, his final words to her the swamp maxim "Feed the gators, don't talk to strangers." Left to look after 70 incubating alligators and an older sister who may or may not be having sex with a succubus, Ava meets the Bird Man, and learns that when you're a kid it's often hard to tell the innocuous secrets from the ones that will kill you if you keep them.

Russell's stories are beautifully written and exuberantly imagined, but it is the emotional precision behind their wondrous surfaces that makes them unforgettable. Magically, from the spiritual wilderness and ghostly swamps of the Florida Everglades, against a backdrop of ancient lizards and disconcertingly lush plant life, in an idiom that is as arrestingly lovely as it is surreal, Karen Russell shows us who we are and how we live.

©2007 Karen Russell (P)2010 Random House

Critic Reviews

"A master of tone and texture and an authority on the bizarre, Karen Russell writes with great flair and fearlessness." (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." (Los Angeles Times Book 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." (Booklist, Starred Review)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

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Story

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  • Overall

Killed by casting

The writing in these stories is wonderful, but the casting could not be worse. There are about two good readers in the whole book. I had to strain to get through the others. Loved the story about the camp for kids with sleep disorders. I particularly noticed a lot of mispronounced words in this audiobook, which was really distracting. I would read this one, not listen.

7 of 8 people found this review helpful

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  • Polly
  • Philadelphia, PA, United States
  • 04-02-13

Unsatisfying, Confusing, and Weird

I like stories with unreal aspects such as time travel, vampires, reptilian monsters, space aliens. But this set of short stories was not enjoyable at all. Each story just stopped ... there are no conclusions, no sense of understanding, no connection with the characters.

I ordered this book because someone on NPR recommended it (Maureen Corrigan who reviews books regularly). I will be very careful about taking her advice in the future.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Story
  • DB
  • 04-11-12

Horrid performance

The writing here is beautiful, the images lovely and haunting, BUT I'd read this one on paper. The performers as a group are mediocre for the most part, but the thing that has driven me to write my first review ever for Audible is that some of them used the wrong words. For example, in "Ava Wrestles the Alligator," the reader calls the sister's boyfriend Lucius. When I looked at the paper version, I discovered that his name is Luscious. Huge difference, don't you think?

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Performance
  • Story
  • Ann
  • Ridge Spring, SC, United States
  • 12-07-11

Unique but uneven

I liked a few of these stories (Ava Wrestles the Alligator, Star Gazer's Guide to Summertime Crime, Accident Brief, and the title story). A few were good except for the endings. A few I pretty much hated.

The author writes well and I loved the quirky, original ideas but some of them weren't executed very well. Many of the stories seemed pretentious or obscure at times. The author also likes to use highbrow words that don't really fit the characters/narrators (who are mostly children).

Overall, I thought the book averaged out to be just OK. There were some high points, some low points, and a lot that was in between. I was pretty glad when I finished the book and I could move on to something else. Each story was read by a different person. Some readers were better than others.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Story
  • william
  • cleveland, OH, United States
  • 09-28-11

Disappointed

I expected whimsical and/or weird because of the name. I never even made it to the title story. I can't explain exactly why I didn't care for the book. All the stories felt the same, I skipped over one or two. I finally just gave up. I can't even come up with one redeeming quality. This was a complete waste of a credit.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Frances
  • KINGSPORT, TN, United States
  • 02-28-11

Fun & entertaining stories.....with one complaint.

I'm not quite finished with these stories but feel compelled to comment at this point anyway. So far, so good. I have really enjoyed these, some more than others, but all of them are fun with layers that make you really feel for the main characters. The story "The City of Shells" however fell flat. Probably because the narrator mispronounces a word that is used over and over again. The word "conch", which is a shell so of course it's integral to this story, is mis-pronounced with a soft "ch". In reality it is pronounced "konk". It's a small detail but for a longtime resident of the Florida Keys it's an annoyance to hear it mispronounced repeatedly. When I hear it said wrong by a tourist I forgive them their ignorance. But someone paid to narrate a story should do their homework. That said, I'm sure the few stories I have left won't disappoint. I look forward to hearing them.

5 of 7 people found this review helpful

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  • Story

Colors of Depression

What would have made St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves better?

Karen Russell is a talented creative writer. While colorful stories that are morose. A steady listening session is not recommended.

What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

Weird. Odd. Sad. Disappointment. Waste of my time. Upon finishing I recalled a friend's quote; "Life is too short to read a bad book".

Any additional comments?

I selected a book that was not within my style of pleasurable fiction. Ms Russell's style is not mine. Others may find her stories to be entertaining.

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  • Robin
  • LORIENT, France
  • 07-30-16

Terrible performance

Actors mispronounced words, overacting, at times wincingly bad. The prose, when you could hear it over the acting, saved the book from being impossibly intolerable.

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  • Story

Stories are great, readings could be much better

Would you consider the audio edition of St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves to be better than the print version?

Kathe Mazur's reading of The City of Shells kills the story. How her pronunciation of conch made it past the people at Penguin Random House, I don't know. The other readers are of varying quality.

Who would you have cast as narrator instead of the narrators?

Professionals

Any additional comments?

This sounds like it was narrated by characters haunting the theme park in the book.

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  • Vanessa
  • Edmonton, AB, Canada
  • 12-05-11

Awkward...

Highly recommended, I want to listen as I had read a review of Swamplandia. The stories were interesting but they end so abruptly that I struggled to get closure with the story.