This debut story collection by the author of Swamplandia! first introduced readers to that novel's characters and others who reside in the ghostly and magical swamps of the Florida Everglades, where the human daughters of werewolves receive etiquette lessons and other strange scenarios ensue.
Russell's explosively imaginative stories explore an adolescent hinterland ... Full of a lively sense of the fantastical, the stories also inhabit a beautifully realized natural environment of starlit skies, phosphorescent caves and abundant animal life ... Russell's injection of a sense of the absurd lends an originality and lightness of touch to this creatively acrobatic debut.
...Karen Russell’s stories are unnerving, darkly funny, and immensely enjoyable. Their standard recipe takes a common coming-of-age theme...folds it into a surreal situation...and tops it off with superb, efficient sentences. Mix well and you’ve got one of the strongest debuts in recent memory ... Moving skillfully between the banal and the extraordinary—a dingy dining room one minute, secret underwater caves the next—Russell blurs the boundaries between the real and the surreal until we become hyperaware and suspicious of every detail. It’s an effect that lasts even after you set the book down ... These haunting stories confidently eschew tidy, 'life’s pretty swell after all' resolutions. Instead, Russell concludes them with harrowing abruptness, showing how childhood, for all its supposed freedom and ease, can in fact be painful, dangerous, and rife with near-fatal miscalculations.
Karen Russell's startlingly original collection...features graceful and seductive prose that transports the reader into surreal and yet utterly plausible realms ... In every story, Russell demonstrates a mastery of her craft, an achievement made even more compelling by the fact that she's only 24 years old.