From Pulitzer Prize finalist Karen Russell comes a new short story collection in which a young man falls in love with a two thousand year old girl that he’s extracted from a mass of peat in a Northern European bog, two opportunistic young women fleeing the depression strike out for new territory and find themselves fighting for their lives, and a new mother strikes a diabolical deal, agreeing to breastfeed the devil in exchange for her son's protection.
... the strangeness is never forced, the surrealism always grounded in recognizable emotion and experience ... Russell excels at a kind of creeping, low-level horror ... Russell’s particular gift lies in taking themes that are close to universal and presenting them in stories whose strangeness comes to seem entirely natural, even necessary. Aside from their fantastical elements, these stories are united by Russell’s willingness to engage deeply with darkness and by her penchant for unexpected endings. This is no small thing ... in Russell’s short stories nothing is inevitable. She has impeccable command of her form.
Russell...grounds the supernatural in a firmly real, at times even mundane, world. In Orange World and Other Stories, actual demons and ghosts externalize, yet do not replace, the inner ones we know so well ... All of the stories in Orange World open with a crisp swiftness that feels like in medias res on steroids. This will lull you into believing you’re reading about ordinary worlds. Only then will Russell deliver, sometimes building gradually and sometimes via an abrupt slap, the often hilarious and always absurd truth ... Russell’s writing is at times overly lush, like the rich landscapes she describes. But even at its most profligate, her ability to give weird and creepy shape to what might otherwise remain dark corners of the human psyche is refreshing. Orange World and Other Stories is a collection hovering on the threshold between horror and comedy, between the phantasmagoric and the fleshly. Its duplicity echoes the duplicity with which society often treats mothers ... To read Orange World and Other Stories feels like witnessing someone capture what a lot of us are afraid to contemplate in the dark, so we only look at it head-on as it fades into nonsense with the light of day.
The eight stories here range from good to really good, with one masterpiece, The Prospectors ... exposes the central core of the strange in the familiar landmarks of American history ... horror always cohabits with humor ... The stories in this superb collection swoop into all three of those worlds, but, speaking as a reader, I always feel like I’m transported to a literary 'green world' whenever I open a book by Karen Russell.