In 2007, a friend told me I should read St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves, a short story anthology by American writer Karen Russell. It was the type of book that took you to Neverland, she said. So I bought a copy, and was passed the baton as Russell’s next evangelist, telling as many people as I could about the magical, dreamlike stories hidden inside that much-loved paperback. (Another friend went on to emigrate with my copy.)
Russell became one of those authors I followed organically. Each time a new title appeared, I would buy it and add it to my collection. I don’t know much about the author. She’s not active on social media and most of the articles that mention her are book reviews. It’s a beautifully simple relationship. She sends her books out into the world without fuss or fanfare, and readers like me buy them because they’re wonderful.
Russell pushes the boundaries of storytelling and manages to evoke a real sense of wonder with her prose. Her second anthology, Vampires in the Lemon Grove, is just as whimsical and daring as her first collection. I love what she does with simple descriptions, transfiguring them into new creatures – familiar but also fantastic. Vampires sating their thirst with lemons, sports fans following the battle between whale and krill, pioneers sharing a window to fool the government.
I received a copy of her third anthology, Orange World, for Christmas. It has taken this long to savour every story, absorbing them and reflecting on Russell’s skill with the written word. She manages to perfectly blend this world with the imaginary, sewing them together seamlessly. There are stories about runaways who find themselves in the past, a new mother who encounters the devil, a boy in love with the dead, and a doctor plagued by rumours. These stories are both beautiful and terrifying, captivating and gripping. Each is a slice of life of someone who could be real, in a world that may or may not be.
Instead of going through every story one by one, I’ve created a LEGO story of each. The only exception is The Tornado Auction, about a retired storm farmer who decides to take one last swing at growing a tornado – a bit hard to mimic with LEGO.
The Bad Graft
Bog Girl: A romance
Madame Bovary’s Greyhound