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Orange World and Other Stories

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From the Pulitzer Finalist and universally beloved author of the New York Times best sellers Swamplandia! and Vampires in the Lemon Grove, a stunning new collection of short fiction that showcases Karen Russell's extraordinary, irresistible gifts of language and imagination. Karen Russell's comedic genius and mesmerizing talent for creating outlandish predicaments that uncannily mirror our inne From the Pulitzer Finalist and universally beloved author of the New York Times best sellers Swamplandia! and Vampires in the Lemon Grove, a stunning new collection of short fiction that showcases Karen Russell's extraordinary, irresistible gifts of language and imagination. Karen Russell's comedic genius and mesmerizing talent for creating outlandish predicaments that uncannily mirror our inner in lives is on full display in these eight exuberant, arrestingly vivid, unforgettable stories. In"Bog Girl", a revelatory story about first love, 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. In "The Prospectors," two opportunistic young women fleeing the depression strike out for new territory, and find themselves fighting for their lives. In the brilliant, hilarious title story, a new mother desperate to ensure her infant's safety strikes a diabolical deal, agreeing to breastfeed the devil in exchange for his protection. The landscape in which these stories unfold is a feral, slippery, purgatorial space, bracketed by the void--yet within it Russell captures the exquisite beauty and tenderness of ordinary life. Orange World is a miracle of storytelling from a true modern master.


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From the Pulitzer Finalist and universally beloved author of the New York Times best sellers Swamplandia! and Vampires in the Lemon Grove, a stunning new collection of short fiction that showcases Karen Russell's extraordinary, irresistible gifts of language and imagination. Karen Russell's comedic genius and mesmerizing talent for creating outlandish predicaments that uncannily mirror our inne From the Pulitzer Finalist and universally beloved author of the New York Times best sellers Swamplandia! and Vampires in the Lemon Grove, a stunning new collection of short fiction that showcases Karen Russell's extraordinary, irresistible gifts of language and imagination. Karen Russell's comedic genius and mesmerizing talent for creating outlandish predicaments that uncannily mirror our inner in lives is on full display in these eight exuberant, arrestingly vivid, unforgettable stories. In"Bog Girl", a revelatory story about first love, 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. In "The Prospectors," two opportunistic young women fleeing the depression strike out for new territory, and find themselves fighting for their lives. In the brilliant, hilarious title story, a new mother desperate to ensure her infant's safety strikes a diabolical deal, agreeing to breastfeed the devil in exchange for his protection. The landscape in which these stories unfold is a feral, slippery, purgatorial space, bracketed by the void--yet within it Russell captures the exquisite beauty and tenderness of ordinary life. Orange World is a miracle of storytelling from a true modern master.

30 review for Orange World and Other Stories

  1. 5 out of 5

    karen

    NOW AVAILABLE!!! i've already read and reviewed the first two stories in this collection (The Prospectors and The Bad Graft) during 2017's december advent calendar, so i'm ahead of the game! and you, too, can be ahead of the game, as four of the eight stories in this collection previously appeared in the new yorker. here are your links: orange world, bog girl, the prospectors, and the bad graft. i'm not sure if the other stories can be NOW AVAILABLE!!! i've already read and reviewed the first two stories in this collection (The Prospectors and The Bad Graft) during 2017's december advent calendar, so i'm ahead of the game! and you, too, can be ahead of the game, as four of the eight stories in this collection previously appeared in the new yorker. here are your links: orange world, bog girl, the prospectors, and the bad graft. i'm not sure if the other stories can be found elsewhere, but don't go looking for them online - they are right here in this book! and even though karen russell is giving her milk away for free, you should still buy this cow - it's got a FOX on the cover! <--- sentences like that make me wonder if my brain's got one of those slow leaks in it. incidentally, the eponymous story here is about a new mother giving her milk away for free... to the devil. so, if you just read all her stories for free, you will be as big a freeloader as the devil, and is that what you want? i didn't think so. but i will give you a sip, you minor demon: Even as a girl, Rae was a terrible negotiator. She gave anybody anything they asked of her. She owed the world; the world owned her. She never felt that she could simply take up space; no, one had to earn one’s keep here on planet Earth. As a kid, Rae’s body soundlessly absorbed the painful things that happened to it, and not even an echo of certain events escaped her lips. Sometimes she thought the problem (the gift, she’d once believed) was anatomical; she didn’t seem to have a gag reflex, so none of the secret stuff—the gushy black awful stuff—ever came out. Now it lives inside her, liquefying. Inadmissible, indigestible event. Is that what the devil is drinking? that passage is slightly different in the new yorker version, so there - now you GOTTA read both. i'm not going to do a play-by-play of the collection as i usually, masochistically, do, but i'll high-and-low it: The Prospectors is one of my favorite short stories ever, and The Tornado Auction was my least-favorite in the collection, but this book - like double stuf oreos, has a big delicious middle. AND A FOX ON THE COVER! come to my blog!

  2. 4 out of 5

    Diane S ☔

    What Russell has accomplished with these stories is hard to describe, but I'll try. She takes what often starts off as a relatively normal situation, and then pulls the stories into a surreal world. One never knows when, how or even why it happens but it does. I'm always in awe of authors who have this kind of imagination, and write so well that the reader accepts these situations as they are. Fiendish! This is a strong work. Eight stories, all but one I liked, the first, The Prospect What Russell has accomplished with these stories is hard to describe, but I'll try. She takes what often starts off as a relatively normal situation, and then pulls the stories into a surreal world. One never knows when, how or even why it happens but it does. I'm always in awe of authors who have this kind of imagination, and write so well that the reader accepts these situations as they are. Fiendish! This is a strong work. Eight stories, all but one I liked, the first, The Prospector my favorite. There is humor, horror, unbelievable happenings accepted as normal. They are strange, but always recognizable, the emotion true. In short, very unexpected, different, and executed well. "Look," he says dreamily, and points to where the moon is rising, bright and enormous as the door to another Galaxy, on the opposite side of the bay." ARc from Edelweiss.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Melki

    “O.K.,” Yvette says, breathing loudly through her nose. “That’s O.K. Weaning is a process.” A group of lactating mothers work together to defeat a very hungry demon. Sounds bizarre, I know, but I found it to be quite a mesmerizing read. Bet the La Leche League never had to deal with this situation. Read it for yourself - https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/20...

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jenny (Reading Envy)

    This is my second favorite Karen Russell (I will always hold St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves as one of my favorite books.) Top stories include The Bad Graft, Bog Girl: A Romance, and The Gondoliers. All of these have some kind of conflict between humans and the natural world, from infiltrating cacti to corpses to a Florida covered in toxic water. Here is a link to The Bad Graft in the New Yorker if you want to try it out. At ALA Midwinter, the publisher literally gave the last/>At This is my second favorite Karen Russell (I will always hold St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves as one of my favorite books.) Top stories include The Bad Graft, Bog Girl: A Romance, and The Gondoliers. All of these have some kind of conflict between humans and the natural world, from infiltrating cacti to corpses to a Florida covered in toxic water. Here is a link to The Bad Graft in the New Yorker if you want to try it out. At ALA Midwinter, the publisher literally gave the last galley of this to the person in front of me, but then approved me to read the eARC in NetGalley. It came out May 14 from Knopf Doubleday.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jaclyn Crupi

    Having new books by Helen Phillips (The Need – read it immediately) and Karen Russell in the same year is almost more excitement than I can handle. Both writers work in the literary surreal/purgatorial/unsettling/horror/weird space and I very much love it. These stories are truly brilliant and Russell is a master storyteller (but we knew that already).

  6. 4 out of 5

    Paige

    How does she condense so much narrative into each perfectly calibrated, brightly colored story? The secret must lie in those sentences, oh my GOD, Russell’s prose is a reminder of what it is to read and enjoy a singular voice. I am so in love with this book. It’s her best so far, and that’s saying a LOT.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Bridgit Morgan

    This was a fascinating collection of short stories! They were all great, but The Tornado Auction was definitely my favorite: that one will stick with me for a long time.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Cat

    I remember when Swamplandia! came out, and I obsessively recommended and described it to people. (I must've been such a charming dinner guest.) As far as I'm concerned, Orange World and Other Stories is the pinnacle of Russell's stylistic and imaginative achievement thus far. Each of her tales is so vivid and slightly askew. With a central fantastic conceit played out in an insistently realistic world (not necessarily our world, mind you, but a realistic one)--often melding contexts with which her readers are fami I remember when Swamplandia! came out, and I obsessively recommended and described it to people. (I must've been such a charming dinner guest.) As far as I'm concerned, Orange World and Other Stories is the pinnacle of Russell's stylistic and imaginative achievement thus far. Each of her tales is so vivid and slightly askew. With a central fantastic conceit played out in an insistently realistic world (not necessarily our world, mind you, but a realistic one)--often melding contexts with which her readers are familiar in a phantasmagoric shorthand. For example, in one story, people breed tornadoes for the rodeo, for example, and Russell brilliantly entangles the rich idioms of catastrophic weather and bull-breeding. In another, climate change and pollution have led to a "New Florida," and teenage girls become gondoliers. The cli-fi context is constantly offset by this vaguely Venetian fantasy and then compounded in its eerie strangeness by the girls' development of echolocation. Russell is so inventive, and the psychological core of each of her stories is powerful. Perhaps my favorite is the title story, Orange World, which describes parental fear for infants (green world would be a safe one, orange is one with daily perils, red would be apocalyptic) and also the rigors (and terrors?) of breast-feeding. Though the stakes for the characters are clear, urgent, and immediate and often reflect the dilemmas and flaws of lives in our world, Russell is also playful; her stories aren't pat. Another favorite, about zombies on Corfu, takes a turn at the very end that had me laughing both because of how fitting it was and how unexpected. A true delight of a collection.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

    I have no idea how Russell comes up with these mystical and bizarre stories, but I'm glad that she does. "The Bad Graft" is the story of a Joshua Tree's spirit invading a woman's body that I can't stop thinking about; then there's "The Gondoliers", with gorgeous description of the eerily-real future of Florida, somewhat abandoned after an environmental catastrophe; and the short but bittersweet life of a dog in "Madame Bovary's Greyhound". This collection is altogether enchanting with a light se I have no idea how Russell comes up with these mystical and bizarre stories, but I'm glad that she does. "The Bad Graft" is the story of a Joshua Tree's spirit invading a woman's body that I can't stop thinking about; then there's "The Gondoliers", with gorgeous description of the eerily-real future of Florida, somewhat abandoned after an environmental catastrophe; and the short but bittersweet life of a dog in "Madame Bovary's Greyhound". This collection is altogether enchanting with a light seasoning of humor; certainly not to be missed.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Oleksandr Zholud

    This is a fantasy/supernatural/magic realism short story about a new mother and her fears. It can be nominated for this year Hugo. This is a story of a woman, who while not exactly young is the first time mother. She is afraid to lose her child and has a deal with a devil to protect the child. She is not the only one. After the birth, the devil demand a daily breast-feeding, exhausting the mother. It can be seen as an allusion of post-partum depression or more general, a fe This is a fantasy/supernatural/magic realism short story about a new mother and her fears. It can be nominated for this year Hugo. This is a story of a woman, who while not exactly young is the first time mother. She is afraid to lose her child and has a deal with a devil to protect the child. She is not the only one. After the birth, the devil demand a daily breast-feeding, exhausting the mother. It can be seen as an allusion of post-partum depression or more general, a fear that anything can hurt the child in our world. ‘Orange world’ mean the place of potential little dangers for a child, between the deadly dangerous Red world and safe Green world. The story is more about feeling than rational explanation and I guess mothers have quite different reaction to it than me, because I understand what was meant, but not truly feel it.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Alena

    I will say that Karen Russell’s imagination is. Fertile and complex place. Her short stories are incredibly varied and always unexpected. Unfortunately, I just didn’t engage with most of these. I often leave her work thinking I should like it, but alas ...

  12. 5 out of 5

    Tony

    Interesting enough little tale but really suffers for being too little. Well written but ultimately goes nowhere - or jumps off before the final destination. This would make a decent book though! It's free; follow the link on the page...

  13. 5 out of 5

    Bill Hsu

    I liked "The Tornado Auction" and the title story, didn't care much for the rest. I thought her two earlier collections were more interesting, with more charm and magic.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Audra (ouija.doodle.reads)

    I’m not sure exactly what is going on in Karen Russell’s brain, but if I could get a little of that in my morning coffee I’m pretty sure the world would paint itself over in ultraviolet. She is on another wavelength entirely and it is a strange, brilliant, and wonderful place. Russell is already known for her short stories, Orange World being her third collection and having had work appear in everything from The New Yorker to Zoetrope to The Best American Short Stories. The eight stories in this new col I’m not sure exactly what is going on in Karen Russell’s brain, but if I could get a little of that in my morning coffee I’m pretty sure the world would paint itself over in ultraviolet. She is on another wavelength entirely and it is a strange, brilliant, and wonderful place. Russell is already known for her short stories, Orange World being her third collection and having had work appear in everything from The New Yorker to Zoetrope to The Best American Short Stories. The eight stories in this new collection tend toward the speculative—one could say horror-adjacent, even (if one were me, and I am, so I did). “The Gondoliers” presents a futuristic (eerily, not too far off track) flooded Florida where a trio of sisters use echolocation to guide gondolas through the wreckage. “Black Corfu” dives into the past, detailing a doctor who desperately wants to help people but because of the color of his skin he is relegated to a lower-class job: making sure the dead stay dead. “The Tornado Auction” follows an old man with nothing left who wants to relive his glory days, the days when he used to wrangle and farm—you guessed it—tornados. Do these stories sound strange? Yes, they do. Russell takes simple human situations, like the worries of having a new baby, and layers on a helping of the weird and uncanny: a devil that wants milk and all the mothers know about it, have been there, send in the support group. By presenting these seemingly normal ideas—the fear of growing old and irrelevant (or the fear of being young and irrelevant as in “The Prospectors”)—in a startlingly new context, Russell opens up the reader for the possibility of seeing those themes alight in their own lives. It reminds me of Edward Scissorhands—that dark and stormy gothic mansion plopped right down in the middle of white-bread suburbia. Somehow they coexist and no one seems too weirded out about the discrepancy. Accepting the magical realism—the idea that a tree could graft its consciousness onto a girl—is just part of the fun. For fans of Kelly Link, George Saunders, Angela Carter, and Carmen Maria Machado, the stories of Karen Russell should be a must-read. I have my fingers crossed for a novel next from Russell, but no matter what it is, I’ll be over the moon to read her work whenever it comes. My thanks to Knopf for sending me this one to read and review.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Alan

    ABNORMAL RESULT. HIGH RISK. CLINICAL OUTCOME UNKNOWN. —"Orange World," p.235 Karen Russell's Orange World isn't what you think it is. Oh, sure, it's good—and that you certainly ought to expect, if you've read any of Russell's previous work—but every story in this collection takes a wry and unexpected turn or two, and brings at least one trenchant observation about human nature. Russell seems to know a lot about ABNORMAL RESULT. HIGH RISK. CLINICAL OUTCOME UNKNOWN. —"Orange World," p.235 Karen Russell's Orange World isn't what you think it is. Oh, sure, it's good—and that you certainly ought to expect, if you've read any of Russell's previous work—but every story in this collection takes a wry and unexpected turn or two, and brings at least one trenchant observation about human nature. Russell seems to know a lot about human nature, in fact, and these tales—however far they may deviate from consensus reality—are always grounded in that awareness. I don't even want to whisper what kind of story "The Prospectors" really is, but perhaps these two brief passages will demonstrate the range of Russell's wit and her wisdom:"Turn-of-the-century sash windows," we'd discovered, meant "pneumonia holes." —"The Prospectors," p.4—and—I felt a pang: I could see both that she was afraid of my proposal and that she could be persuaded. This is a terrible knowledge to possess about a friend. —"The Prospectors," p.5 "The Bad Graft" begins with the terrestrial weirdness of Joshua Tree National Park, and the mundanity of an elopement. In "Bog Girl: A Romance," Cillian (son of Jillian—parents can be so cruel) learns that there's nothing quite like the love of an older woman. By this time I was starting to realize that Orange World was full of departures, rooted in reality but then flowering into... something else. Now, I haven't read or seen the source material for "Madame Bovary's Greyhound," which probably accounts for my relative lack of appreciation for this story. That's my fault, obviously, though, rather than Russell's. I do like stories that retell classics from another point of view, like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, or "Returned," the Kat Howard story I recently read that reimagined Eurydice and Orpheus. And, judging from my acquaintance with a coworker's pet, Russell gets the greyhound exactly right. By the time "The Tornado Auction" blows through, Russell's not easing us in anymore—the surrealism starts with the title. These days anybody with sense farms winds. —"The Tornado Auction," p.117If I had to pick a favorite from among these stories, it'd be this one. I imagined it being read aloud, in the gravelly voice of an old man who's seen too many storms come and go. From tornado auctions, "Black Corfu" jumps across continents and backward in time, contrasting the languid movements of the dead with the far more rapid spread of rumor. The rumor has moved into the tower of fact. Of history. It does not want to be evicted. —"Black Corfu," p.187 The lesson was this: You fit yourself to your circumstances. Wrapped your wings tightly around your skin and settled into your niche. Go smooth, stay flat. Do your breathing in the shadows. Grow even slightly wider, or wilder, and you risk turning your home into your tomb. —"Black Corfu," p.166 "The Gondoliers" reminded me of a much shorter story of my own—both begin with gondoliers poling their way around the drowned wrecks of coastal skyscrapers—but Russell's vision is far deeper, richer and more topical. Writing that survives the bodies that produced it is always haunted, I guess. —"The Gondoliers," p.202 Every end is a beginning. While I was reading Orange World, a chance acquaintance (a diminutive dental hygienist's assistant named Bailey, to be precise) asked me what "Orange World" was about. I couldn't tell her because Russell put her title story at the end and I hadn't read it yet. Now that I know, I still won't explain it, but I will say that I could easily have met these moms as they gathered near the park on Powell Boulevard: "We mothers of Southeast Portland cannot entertain this devil any longer!" —"Orange World," pp.260-261 Russell is a living author (and for me a local one, to boot), but her work already stands, for me, with Ray Bradbury's—she crafts similarly luminous prose (albeit not nearly as florid and with far fewer italics), and like Bradbury she ventures frequently and fearlessly into the farthest regions of the imagination. Color me... impressed.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jill

    Strange things happen to people in Karen Russell tales. In this, her third short story collection, those things include fortune-seeking young girls who end up dancing with zombies, a teenage boy who falls in love with a red-haired bog corpse, a depressed middle-aged man raising tornadoes, and in the epistolary tale, a new mother who is forced to suckle the devil. The power of the stories is their seamless weaving of natural and supernatural, blended with everyday humor. Consider when Strange things happen to people in Karen Russell tales. In this, her third short story collection, those things include fortune-seeking young girls who end up dancing with zombies, a teenage boy who falls in love with a red-haired bog corpse, a depressed middle-aged man raising tornadoes, and in the epistolary tale, a new mother who is forced to suckle the devil. The power of the stories is their seamless weaving of natural and supernatural, blended with everyday humor. Consider when new mother Rae tells Yvette, another woman in her mom’s group, that every night since she’s gotten home from the hospital, she’s been nursing the devil. Without batting a false eyelash, Yvette responds: “That fucking thing It’s been coming south of Powell?” Or consider Bog Girl: A Romance, when young Cillian becomes romantically linked to a bog girl. When friends of his mother try to soothe her with the “we’ve all been there once”, her answer is priceless: “Cillian is fifteen. And the girlfriend is two thousand.” The Bad Graft – another favorite from this collection—starts normally enough. Two young lovers impulsively leave their jobs and head off for the California deserts. All is fine until the soul of a Joshua tree possesses the girl, intertwining with her as its host. Her boyfriend begins to wonder about what exactly is going on with her. There’s a marvelous imagination at work here, and I found myself stopping more than once and wondering how Karen Russell’s fertile mind came up with some of these ideas. But read one after the other, a certain ennui sets in: the themes begin echoing each other a little bit. The best of these are marvelous. The others are also quite good and I’m netting out at 4.5 stars.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Jessica Sullivan

    This collection is so good I can’t even handle it! Surreal, atmospheric, unsettling takes on familiar themes: the uncertainty of new relationships, the realities of climate change, the desperate need to protect the ones we love. Two women attend a party at a ski lodge full of ghosts. On a trip to the desert, a woman is infected with the spirit of a Joshua tree. A posthumous surgeon in the 1600s is tasked with performing a disturbing ritual to prevent corpses from rising. A new mother This collection is so good I can’t even handle it! Surreal, atmospheric, unsettling takes on familiar themes: the uncertainty of new relationships, the realities of climate change, the desperate need to protect the ones we love. Two women attend a party at a ski lodge full of ghosts. On a trip to the desert, a woman is infected with the spirit of a Joshua tree. A posthumous surgeon in the 1600s is tasked with performing a disturbing ritual to prevent corpses from rising. A new mother agrees to breastfeed the devil in exchange for her baby’s safety. Russell builds tension and dread so masterfully. These stories teeter on the edge of reality, the strangeness of each one gradually unraveling at a perfect pace. Sometimes it takes several pages to even figure out what’s going on, but the thing is I trusted Russell implicitly to take me on these little journeys. Some of her sentences are so beautiful and magical that I kept re-reading them. If you like strange fiction along the lines of George Saunders and Kelly Link, don’t miss this.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth☮

    What a fascinating range of stories. I must get her first collection now.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jason Furman

    A friend of mine ruined Karen Russell for me by telling me that she liked stories where the edges bend, a notion that captured the fantastical as a metaphor that I liked so much in, for example, in everything from Kafka stories to Her Body and Other Parties. The problem with Karen Russell, as she pointed out and immediately resonated with me, is the edges do not bend. It is all quite literal. I love just about all of the literal concepts in Orange World and Other Stories--two women visiting ghosts who died bui A friend of mine ruined Karen Russell for me by telling me that she liked stories where the edges bend, a notion that captured the fantastical as a metaphor that I liked so much in, for example, in everything from Kafka stories to Her Body and Other Parties. The problem with Karen Russell, as she pointed out and immediately resonated with me, is the edges do not bend. It is all quite literal. I love just about all of the literal concepts in Orange World and Other Stories--two women visiting ghosts who died building a mountain resort, a woman who merges with a Joshua Tree, a two thousand year old girl pulled from a bog and entering modern life, a doctor who operates on the dead in the underworld, etc. But none of these go a level beyond to raise a profoundly exciting or interesting question, create a sense of mystery, and they also generally lack interesting or multi-dimensional characters. So while every story in this collection was a perfectly pleasant read, with the exception of "The Tornado Auction" (discussed below) none of them were outstanding. I should add, I listened to most of the stories on audible and the multiple narrators were fantastic, each one with a voice perfectly adapted to the story he or she was narrating, with The Tornado Auction narrator particularly outstanding which might have contributed to my view on the story itself. On the individual stories: The Prospectors (3 stars): Two girls go up a ski lift, meet a bunch of ghosts. Like many ghosts stories, it does keep one's attention. But the concept is not remotely novel and it feels like a step back from the many ghost stories where the edges bend that we've been telling for over a century, see M.R. James. The Bad Graft (4 stars): A woman gets implanted by a Joshua Tree. The concept of a part human, part plant is more interesting than a bunch of ghosts, and the exploration of what this does to her relationships makes it on the stronger end of character development for this collection. Bog Girl: A Romance (3 stars): I would rather have read a shorter, funnier version by Simon Rich. Madame Bovary's Greyhound (2 stars): The parallel stories of Madame Bovary and her greyhound just did not work for me, somehow seemed too silly. The Tornado Auction (5 stars): I loved this story about an older Texan who returns to raising tornado's after a troubled life trying to maintain this way of life against a family that wanted to modernize and did not fully support him. The concept itself was great and the character's narration of it was pitch perfect. Black Corfu (3 stars): Another strong concept, a doctor operates on people in the underworld severing their tendons, but the story was only fine. The Gondoliers (4 stars): This one also stood out a little more for me because I liked the post-apocalyptic setting in a toxic flooded Miami with a group of sisters operating gondolas by echolocation. It was weird and the sister's interior lives were interesting. Orange World (3 stars): A group of women who form a support group to discuss the fact that they've all been breast feeding a devil, if not the devil, was amusing enough--but another one that really just seemed like a joke concept that would have been better off explicitly limited to as such in the manner of Simon Rich.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Thekelburrows

    Karen Russell is DOPE

  21. 4 out of 5

    Drew

    I'm giving the book three stars although I could honestly give it four for the stories that I did like, and for the fact that even the ones I didn't I still admired. But I think my patience for Karen Russell has dwindled since I once declared her my short-story-spirit-animal. Every single Karen Russell story has a similar voice, even if the characters and plots and even the actual quality of the prose are different -- and that grated on me. So, too, did the fact that all eight stories in this co I'm giving the book three stars although I could honestly give it four for the stories that I did like, and for the fact that even the ones I didn't I still admired. But I think my patience for Karen Russell has dwindled since I once declared her my short-story-spirit-animal. Every single Karen Russell story has a similar voice, even if the characters and plots and even the actual quality of the prose are different -- and that grated on me. So, too, did the fact that all eight stories in this collection are previously published and I'd already read five of them. "The Tornado Auction" and "The Prospectors" were far and away my favorites. "The Bad Graft" and "Bog Girl: A Romance" actually fared better on second read than they did when I first caught them in The New Yorker (actually my third read on 'Graft' - I skimmed it when it was included in the BASFF 2015(!)). The other stories made me shrug, even as I enjoyed moments or parts or even just ideas. Maybe... I don't need to read Russell's next collection. Particularly if I can just read the stories in my weekly periodical reading. We'll see, I suppose.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jessica Klahr

    This collection was almost everything I hoped it would be. Russell’s ability to construct entire worlds and a strong sense of completeness by the end is uncanny. The first three stories were my favorite, as they were prime examples of her doing what she does best: taking what starts out to appear as normal society and adding more and more weirdness almost to the brink of absurdity and then reeling it back a little. “The Bog Girl,” for instance, wouldn’t have worked as well as it did if all the s This collection was almost everything I hoped it would be. Russell’s ability to construct entire worlds and a strong sense of completeness by the end is uncanny. The first three stories were my favorite, as they were prime examples of her doing what she does best: taking what starts out to appear as normal society and adding more and more weirdness almost to the brink of absurdity and then reeling it back a little. “The Bog Girl,” for instance, wouldn’t have worked as well as it did if all the surrounding characters in the story didn’t act as if it was completely normal that this high school boy was carrying around his centuries old frozen girlfriend. I also really enjoyed the slow building sense of dread in “The Prospectors” and “The Gondoliers,” another Karen Russell staple trick. I didn’t give it five stars because the three middle stories didn’t click for me like the rest did. “Madame Bovary’s Greyhound” didn’t feel like it led to anywhere and it took me three days to drudge through “Black Corfu.” It felt out of place in the collection. I would recommend this collection to anyone who liked her previous work or someone who is looking to read a little more magical realism.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Melora

    Strange, intriguing stories. “The Bad Graft” was amazingly inventive, but when I started reading “The Gondoliers,” a dystopian Florida story, I was sure it was going to be my favorite. It went too long, though, and eventually got too confusing. And then I got to the last story – “Orange World” – which is just amazing. My youngest child is now seventeen, but “Orange World” brought back all the overpowering love, devotion, and fear of early motherhood. Easily the most satisfying of the stories, an Strange, intriguing stories. “The Bad Graft” was amazingly inventive, but when I started reading “The Gondoliers,” a dystopian Florida story, I was sure it was going to be my favorite. It went too long, though, and eventually got too confusing. And then I got to the last story – “Orange World” – which is just amazing. My youngest child is now seventeen, but “Orange World” brought back all the overpowering love, devotion, and fear of early motherhood. Easily the most satisfying of the stories, and a great one with which to finish the book.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Jenny

    Holy shit. HOLY FUCKING SHIT, this collection was fun! Seriously, I had pretty low expectations going in, since I've never read any of Russell's work before, but this collection was PHENOMENAL. Before I go into short reviews for each story, let me get the one constant that I loved out of the way: the writing. HOLY SHIT, the writing in this collection was INSANE. Not only was everything well-worded, the descriptions were amazing and the language fit each story's scenario to a tee. Not only was th Holy shit. HOLY FUCKING SHIT, this collection was fun! Seriously, I had pretty low expectations going in, since I've never read any of Russell's work before, but this collection was PHENOMENAL. Before I go into short reviews for each story, let me get the one constant that I loved out of the way: the writing. HOLY SHIT, the writing in this collection was INSANE. Not only was everything well-worded, the descriptions were amazing and the language fit each story's scenario to a tee. Not only was the writing stellar, I could tell Russell made sure to choose her words carefully when trying to get a point across or describing something. Also, really quick, I loved the pacing of the stories, it really made me want to keep reading just to see what would happen! Okay, with that out of the way, let's discuss each story. I'm not going to give each story a rating because I don't feel like it nor do I think it's necessary, and I'll try to keep my reviews/reactions short so as not to spoil anything. Enough chatter, let's get started! "The Prospectors"-a phenomenal blend of historical fiction and supernatural that was the perfect opener for this collection. It set the tone for the collection, was a solid story on its own, and gave readers a perfect idea as to what the rest of the collection would be like. And damn, those eye descriptions! I never knew eyes could be described like that! The ending was a little confusing, but it was still a good story. "The Bad Graft"-an interesting play on human's interactions with nature and the difficulties in ending a relationship, even when said relationship is unhealthy. Not my favorite, but definitely well-written and interesting. "Bog Girl: A Romance"-I'm not gonna lie, I almost burst out laughing at the final twist/climax towards the end. I want to add a clever line here, but it would be a spoiler so all I'm gonna say is that romance isn't everything it's cracked up to be, even one-sided ones. "Madame Bovary's Greyhound"-My least favorite of the bunch not because it was poorly-written or the story didn't make sense, but simply because I felt it wasn't as strong as the others. Don't get me wrong, I loved the idea of how a person's emotions, especially sadness, can affect others, including animals. I thought the nature scenes were strong and I did enjoy the message, but I couldn't connect to the characters and the ending was okay bordering on confusing. Still good, just not as strong. "The Tornado Auction"-I straight up started reading this and thought, "this story is about selling fucking tornadoes? What the fuck?" and ended up not only loving it but loving EVERYTHING about it. The story, the pacing, the message, the ending, all of it was great! One thing to note: I am NOT an expert on clouds, tornadoes, etc, so I cannot speak to the accuracy of the science behind the story. That being said, even if all the science was inaccurate, I would still LOVE this story. Unexpectedly amazing, I love it! "Black Corfu"-I have no other way of describing this story except it's "Where the Crawdads Sing" but better. For those of you who don't know what I mean by that, read my review (or really any negative review) of "Where the Crawdads Sing" and this will make more sense. For those of you who don't want to work that hard, here's the abridged version: the writing is stronger, the story is packs more of a punch, the characters were more fleshed out and interesting, and the ending was handled better. Speaking of the ending *pulls out megaphone, turns it on* HEY DELIA OWENS! TAKE NOTES FROM THIS STORY! THIS IS HOW YOU DO A LAST-MINUTE TWIST ENDING AND NOT FUCK UP THE REST OF THE STORY! THANK YOU! *turns megaphone off, puts away* "The Gondoliers"-Easily the best story in the collection (in my biased, humble opinion) and my favorite of the bunch. The commentary on how older generations think they fucked up the world for young people and apologizing for it, but refusing to see any of the good left in the world that younger people point out is well done. The world in this story is super interesting, atmosphere was tense all the way through, Blister was an interesting character, and I loved how familial bonds/relationships played a big role in the story. I don't want to say anything else for fear of spoilers, but this was a fantastic story. "Orange World"-If this story doesn't make you cringe because the way the characters act is EXACTLY how you'd think mothers (new or old) act in real life, you've CLEARLY never been around mothers. I really liked the ending and the writing was incredibly strong, specifically with regards to dialogue. Not to mention this was a strong ending story for the collection without feeling like it has to be bombastic or over the top. A great ending to a great collection of stories. Welp, those are my thoughts. I forgot to mention that this collection isn't going to be for everyone, but if I'm being completely honest, I don't think this collection is "too weird". Like Her Body and Other Parties, all of the weird happenings purely exist to push a message or enhance the plot. It's not weird for the sake of being weird *coughTHEMERRYSPINSTERcough* However, if you read the summary and thought the stories were "too weird," then I guess they are, but coming from someone who ADORES weird shit, this collection was pretty tame, all things considered. I definitely recommend giving this collection a shot, it's easily one of the best books I read this year and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

  25. 4 out of 5

    cat

    I will read anything that Karen Russell writes. Magical realism + birth and breastfeeding and mothering across the ages = fantastic short story. You can read this one for free at the New Yorker site. "The breaking is continuous—in the ouroboros of caretaking, guilt and love and fear and love continuously swallow one another."

  26. 5 out of 5

    John Decker

    "The Bad Graft," "Orange World," and "Bog Girl: A Romance" are phenomenal and imaginative, but the other stories drown out what they bring to the collection.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Corinne Keener

    I'm a big and long time Karen Russell fan. I'm always a little terrified to return to an author that I've enjoyed before because I'm afraid that I won't like them anymore or something will be missing. Maybe I've changed. Maybe she's changed. So I have to admit that immediately as I started reading, the collection was a pretty big letdown. The first story, The Prospectors, especially, did not have the normal verve that I've come to love from Russell's strange worlds. This is going to sound very me I'm a big and long time Karen Russell fan. I'm always a little terrified to return to an author that I've enjoyed before because I'm afraid that I won't like them anymore or something will be missing. Maybe I've changed. Maybe she's changed. So I have to admit that immediately as I started reading, the collection was a pretty big letdown. The first story, The Prospectors, especially, did not have the normal verve that I've come to love from Russell's strange worlds. This is going to sound very mean: it read like finely written, but poorly conceived Shining fanfic. The scenery details were there, the atmosphere was mostly realized, but I just seemed like it didn't need to exist. The Bad Graft, the next story was kind of creepy and interesting. About a woman who's body is invaded by a Joshua tree in the southwest, it had more of the promises of what I was hoping for, but still did not exactly meet my expectations. Bog Girl was more up to speed with the language, humor, and style I've come to know and love from Russell. I could do without Madame Bovary's Greyhound, though it was a nice story. I honestly have no idea what was happening in The Tornado Auction, but I was fascinated by it anyway. It took me some time to work through the stories because of this. I nearly returned the book to the library before finishing. But this collection did reward me for sticking with it. Black Corfu, The Gondoliers, and Orange World are the final three stories and stick out as the most remarkable works here: tackling fear of the unknown and, in some ways, institutional racism; life in the ruins of Florida after it's been lost to flooding and toxic pollution, and the demons that prey on modern motherhood, respectively. Each evoking it's own otherworldly atmosphere, somethings beautiful and perverse. Overall, a fairly uneven collection. Russell read Orange World on an episode of The New Yorker Podcast which is well worth your time if you plan on passing on the collection as a whole.

  28. 5 out of 5

    musa b-n

    I read orange world on recommendation from a friend, and it was beautiful. All of the short stories were so good at structuring an uncanny environment. All the stories were also just full of color! I love prose that pays really close attention to color. Also, I was reading it heading into Dan's and my Australia vacation, which we were largely taking on Dan's pre-apocalyptic impulse to see the Great Barrier Reef before it was totally destroyed. Upcoming climate demise was big in our mi I read orange world on recommendation from a friend, and it was beautiful. All of the short stories were so good at structuring an uncanny environment. All the stories were also just full of color! I love prose that pays really close attention to color. Also, I was reading it heading into Dan's and my Australia vacation, which we were largely taking on Dan's pre-apocalyptic impulse to see the Great Barrier Reef before it was totally destroyed. Upcoming climate demise was big in our minds, and the nihilism + hope + beauty of these stories were really nice to read. I even read some stories to Dan as we were driving in the car! My favorite was definitely the one about the gondoliers, and my least favorite was, surprisingly, the one about the Bog Girls.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Kait McNamee

    I love Karen Russell's work, and this book was no exception. While it didn't capture me the same way Vampires in the Lemon Grove did, I still enjoyed the short stories in this collection. It really covers a breadth of topics, from historic ghosts & vampires to demon-fighting moms in Portland. This book is a quick read for fall, mainly because a lot of themes line up with Halloween (but not in a super on-the-nose way).

  30. 4 out of 5

    Carolyn

    I won’t be forgetting some of these stories for a long time. Such intriguing ideas, so wildly creepy!

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