Karen Russell is a literary genius, of this I am certain. Her first collection of short stories is beautifully written, compassionate, yet contains an underlying darkness. These are fairy tales for adults, cautionary tales, mainly set in the Florida Everglades, and each story contains an element of the absurd. "Children's Reminiscences of the Westward Migration" is a tale of western expansion, of the struggles faced along the trail, and of how relationships change in the face of turmoil. However, in a bizarre twist, the narrator's father is a Minotaur. Yes, you read that correctly. In "Z.Z.'s Sleep-Away Camp for Disordered Dreamers," Russell writes of a seemingly typical summer camp for kids, but the camper's social status is determined by sleep disorder. Sleep Apneics rank far above the Night Eaters, who top the Incontinents by a wide margin. One of the darkest tales, and perhaps my favorite, is "Haunting Olivia," which illustrates the lengths to which we go to punish ourselves for our inability to prevent tragedy. Some readers may be turned off by each story's abrupt ending, but I have grown fond of Russell's style. It allows room for interpretation, gives us something to ponder, long after we have closed the cover of this outstanding collection.
A debut anthology of short stories, set against the backdrop of the Florida Everglades, features original tales, including "Haunting Olivia," "Z.Z.'s Sleepaway Camp for Disordered Dreamers," "Out to Sea," and the title story, about fifteen young girls who had been raised by wolves and who are painstakingly re-educated by nuns. A first collection. Reprint.