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Orange World and Other Stories

Karen Russell, the author of Swamplandia!, offers eight fantastical tales in Orange World and Other Stories. In "The Prospectors," two friends must survive a night at a party of denial-ridden ghosts. In "Bog Girl," a young boy falls in love with a girl he discovers buried in peat and mud in a nearby swamp. Other standouts from the collection include the post-apocalyptic, poisonous Everglades of "The Gondoliers" and the bargain a woman makes with the devil to save her family by breast-feeding a fiend in the title story, "Orange World." These tales all capture the atmosphere of the unbelievable and ground it in the lives of startlingly realized protagonists, making a seemingly incredible situation, suddenly and unnervingly, emotionally prescient.

Hauntingly beautiful, lyrical and strange, these stories gleam with sensitive insight and intelligence. Each tale delights in the unexpected and the uncanny. Russell tips the worlds of her characters' lives just slightly off balance but never upends her readership. She continues to have a masterful sense of how the eccentric, magical elements of her stories map onto her readers' intimate, emotional lives. While none of these stories are straightforward metaphors, each one manages to tap into its audience's buried desires, fears and discomforts. Sometimes, it is the very off-kilter nature of these worlds, these people and their attachments that feel most akin to the real world. Whether she is tackling the anxieties of motherhood, the dark yearnings of first love or our desire for unity in a time of mutual destruction, Russell's stunning prose and wondrous creations never miss their mark. --Alice Martin, freelance writer and editor