Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves [review]


St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves by Karen Russell
Published by Vintage Books in 2005
my rating: ⭐️⭐️
Goodreads avg: 
3.79 (as of 2018-05-09)

Spoiler-free Review

Goodreads | IndieBound | Author’s Website

In these ten glittering short stories, debut author Karen Russell takes us to the ghostly and magical swamps of the Florida Everglades. Here, wolf-like girls are reformed by nuns; a family makes its living wrestling alligators in a theme park; and little girls sail away on crab shells. Filled with stunning inventiveness and heart, St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves introduces a radiant new writer.

She used to have these intense bouts of homesickness in her own bedroom. When she was very small, she would wake up tearing at her bedspread and shrieking, “I wanna go home! I wanna go home!” Which was distressing to all of us, of course, because she was home.

Nobody is more bummed than me that I didn’t like this collection. My first introduction to Karen Russell was Vampires in the Lemon Grove, another collection of short stories that I picked up on a whim in 2015 and absolutely devoured. It became one of my favorite books and I recommended it to literally everyone who would listen. Ironically enough, while I chose it for the postal book club that my friend Rachel started, another group member (there are 12 of us) chose this one! I was stoked that I would finally get the chance to read more of Karen’s work.

Everybody wants to go home, and no one can agree on where that is anymore.

Unfortunately, the majority of the stories in this collection just didn’t vibe with me. They felt bizarre just for the sake of being bizarre and I found it impossible to connect with any of the characters (save for a couple). The stories felt like they stopped abruptly and I had difficulty understanding their purpose. There were some stories about girls having questionable relationships with grown men that made me unbelievably uncomfortable. Perhaps there were underlying messages that I truly just didn’t understand.

My rating for each story:

Ava Wrestles the Alligator ⭐️⭐️⭐️ (cw sexual assault??)
Haunting Olivia ⭐️⭐️ (cw familial death)
ZZ’s Sleep-Away Camp for Disordered Dreamers ⭐️⭐️ (cw r-word, animal death)
The Star-Gazer’s Log of Summer-Time Crime ⭐️⭐️ (cw ableism)
Children’s Reminiscences of the Westward Migration ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Lady Yeti and the Palace of Artificial Snows ⭐️⭐️⭐️
The City of Shells ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5
Out to Sea ⭐️⭐️ (cw underage drug abuse; pedophilia)
Accident Brief, Occurrence #00/422 ⭐️⭐️.5 (cw casual racism)
St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

He is an obdurate man, a man of irritating, inveterate habits. He refuses to put down toilet seats, or quit sucking on pistachio shells, or die.

My average rating was 2.8 stars, rounded down to 2. I think the content warnings really speak for themselves as to why I didn’t love this collection. Many of the stories included problematic themes that I didn’t really find combated or justified in any way. I suppose the point of this collection is to make people uncomfortable, but aside from the two four-star stories, I just didn’t enjoy myself reading this. I was going to DNF after the fourth story, but I really wanted to finish this for the book club and was also looking forward to the title story (which was last, and which was worth reading).

This book may still be worth it for you if you’re interested. It definitely worked for other people, so I don’t want to turn anyone away, but this really wasn’t for me.

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(Cover and blurb courtesy of Goodreads.)

6 thoughts on “St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves [review]”

  1. Hmm, every time I see a review of this book, I think it’ll be something I like because of the title but then the reviewers point out a bunch of things I wouldn’t like about this book, lol… Maybe I’ll try Vampires in the Lemon Grove instead!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I do have to give Vampires a reread to see if I still like it as much buuut I did adore it before, so I’d definitely recommend that one! 🙂


  2. I just read this for the first time, and while I think I like it a bit more than you did, I also agree that Vampires in the Lemon Grove was much better. My favorite story in this collection was “Children’s Reminiscences of the Westward Migration” which from your star rating seems to be your favorite too. It was weird but I think it used the weirdness well to explore a child’s image of his father as well as prejudice. Thanks for your review and content warnings.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for sharing your experience with the book! I’d agree that “Children’s Reminiscences of the Westward Migration” was also my favorite from the collection, and was probably the most memorable as well. I think you’re correct that the weirdness worked well with those explorations and I wish it had been expanded into a whole book. Happy reading!

      Liked by 1 person

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