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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 unca 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 unca 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. 4 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 found elsewhere, but don't go looking for them online - they a 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. 5 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 Prospector my favori 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 galley of 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. 5 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.

  6. 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).

  7. 5 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 h 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.

  8. 5 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.

  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. 4 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 fear that anything can hur 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. 5 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. 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.

  14. 5 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 n 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

    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 ghos 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.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Thekelburrows

    Karen Russell is DOPE

  17. 4 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.

  18. 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."

  19. 4 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.

  20. 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.

  21. 4 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 minds, and the 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.

  22. 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.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Varsha Ravi (between.bookends)

    Another wildly inventive, dark collection of stories from a master storyteller that doesn't fail to impress. Touching on a variety of topics ranging from environmentalism, global warming, post-partum depression, first love, and all that's in between, these stories crackle with a fierce imagination and a touch of the other-worldly. Russell tinkers with daily, human and mundane realities, presenting them in outlandish and curiously dark settings, that at once seem both familiar and unfamiliar. The Another wildly inventive, dark collection of stories from a master storyteller that doesn't fail to impress. Touching on a variety of topics ranging from environmentalism, global warming, post-partum depression, first love, and all that's in between, these stories crackle with a fierce imagination and a touch of the other-worldly. Russell tinkers with daily, human and mundane realities, presenting them in outlandish and curiously dark settings, that at once seem both familiar and unfamiliar. There's something slightly off-kilter in her stories, laced with a creepy, malevolent edginess that borders between comic and horror. In Bog-Girl: A Romance, a typical first-love story is turned around on its head when a young boy falls desperately in love with a 2000-year-old girl, he finds, preserved in a mass of peat in a Northern European bog. In The Tornado Auction, you follow a retired tornado farmer, risking it all to raise and unleash one last, formidable tornado. In The Gondoliers, you follow 4 sisters who call themselves the Gondoliers, using echolocation to navigate a flooded, submerged Florida. In Madame Bovary's Greyhound, you follow the relationship between a young, loyal greyhound and his rather fickle-minded mistress. In the title story, Orange World, a new mother strikes a diabolical deal with the devil in order to protect her newborn son. Karen Russell has an irresistible gift of language, the prowess with which she writes is simply mesmerizing. Some might find her style a little too lyrical and overwritten, but I've always loved it. The sheer decadence of her writing, embellished with all the tiny details that paint the setting with such vivid particularity; reading it is an experience in an of itself. As is with other collections, some stories were stronger than others and I still feel her first collection St.Lucy's Home was even better. It's safe to say though, with Karen Russell, you can expect the unexpected, a rollicking ride through a feral, untamed, purgatorial space.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Delany Holcomb

    Karen Russell has done it again! She has brilliantly crafted this cocktail of stories that enchant and move the reader in only the way Russell knows how. For fans of "Vampires in the Lemon Grove", "Orange World" is the collection of tales you've been searching for to satiate your appetite. Each story feels like an episode of the Twilight Zone with genuine heart and feeling, and I am both satisfied by "Orange World" as well as left feeling hungry for more.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Nadine

    Eight incredibly imaginative stories - the only thing they have in common is Russell's beguiling story telling. I've read one other story collection of hers a few years ago, St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves, and I felt like those stories were a little flat compared to their delicious titles. My experience here was the other way around - the titles may be plainer, but the stories sucked me right in. They are fairly long, ranging from about 20 to 40 pages, so they go deep. My favorites w Eight incredibly imaginative stories - the only thing they have in common is Russell's beguiling story telling. I've read one other story collection of hers a few years ago, St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves, and I felt like those stories were a little flat compared to their delicious titles. My experience here was the other way around - the titles may be plainer, but the stories sucked me right in. They are fairly long, ranging from about 20 to 40 pages, so they go deep. My favorites were Orange World, The Gondoliers, Bog Girl: A Romance, and Madam Bovary's Greyhound. I love her writing - so descriptive and original. From The Gondoliers: Disappearing can make you feel like your own biographer. You hear the absence of your voice, and the notes you are failing to hit make their own shadow melody. You unlid the spaces ordinarily hidden by your body: a new song comes fluting through them. Whenever I hear my sisters singing without me, I get a flash of my own silhouette. She can be slyly funny too. From Orange World: 'Okay' one of the New Moms says. She's a white woman, wearing sunglasses and overalls and transmitting a definite hostility to being looked at, like a vampire or a vacationing Olsen. And here's a little tickle of nostalgia for the not-very-long-ago: 'I love you,' they tell each other frequently on these calls. More truth won't fit through the tiny colander of the telephone receiver.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Karissa Fast

    The strange magic-realism I've come to expect from Karen Russell is in full force in this collection of short stories. The thing I love most about this book is the juxtaposition between the writing style and the subject matter. Her writing is always dreamy and romantic, as though she is writing about a dazzling royal ball. But the subject matter is often grotesque to the extreme: a room full of men who have been dead for years, a smitten teen carrying around a decomposing body everywhere he goes The strange magic-realism I've come to expect from Karen Russell is in full force in this collection of short stories. The thing I love most about this book is the juxtaposition between the writing style and the subject matter. Her writing is always dreamy and romantic, as though she is writing about a dazzling royal ball. But the subject matter is often grotesque to the extreme: a room full of men who have been dead for years, a smitten teen carrying around a decomposing body everywhere he goes, a woman whose body has been commandeered by the spirit of a tree, a dog who runs away and breaks her own leg. As with Vampires in the Lemon Grove, there are bright images in this book that have stayed with me, and randomly pop into my imagination. I love that about Russell. She knows how to stick with you.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Silvana

    Didn't get it. At first I thought it was a story set in a collapsing world with old(er) women suddenly got pregnant and had babies. *I marked it as scifi* But then it became a horror tale with demons. *Ok, scratch that, it's horror* Yet, at the end I still did not understand the point. A real demon or manifestation of post-birth trauma? Anyway, too much body horror for my taste.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Hans

    Karen Russell's new story collection is a goddamned delight. Russell writes full novels in the space of a short story. We may need to fight if you do not like her two completely perfect stories: "Bog Girl: A Romance" and "The Tornado Auction." And that is not to mention, the other nearly-perfect stories that would be in the top tier in any other book collection: --"The Prospectors" --"The Bad Graft" - in part because it name checks several of my favorite places in the USA --"The Gondoliers" --"Oran Karen Russell's new story collection is a goddamned delight. Russell writes full novels in the space of a short story. We may need to fight if you do not like her two completely perfect stories: "Bog Girl: A Romance" and "The Tornado Auction." And that is not to mention, the other nearly-perfect stories that would be in the top tier in any other book collection: --"The Prospectors" --"The Bad Graft" - in part because it name checks several of my favorite places in the USA --"The Gondoliers" --"Orange World" There are moments and passages in every story that snagged in my brain, even the couple stories that did not blow me away. I held myself back and still marked nearly twenty places as I moved through the stories in Karen Russell's latest collection. I rolled a die to randomly decide how many of my flagged places that I could share with you. The number is two. (Sorry, you'll just need to find the other eighteen on your own.) 1) This is the opening paragraph to "Bog Girl: A Romance" and it is a full story in it's own right:The young turf cutter fell hard for his first girlfriend while operating heavy machinery in the peatlands. His name was Cillian Eddowis, he was fifteen years old, and he was illegally employed by Bos Ardee. He had celery-green eyes and a stutter that had been corrected at the state's expense; it resurfaced whenever he got nervous. 'Th-th-th,' he'd said, accepting the job. How did Cillian persuade Bos Ardee to hire him? The boy had lyingly laid claim to many qualities: strength, maturity, experience. When that didn't work, he pointed to his bedroom window, a quarter mile away, on the misty periphery of the cutaway bog, where the undrained water still sparkled between the larch trees. The intimation was clear: what the thin, strange boy lacked in muscle power he made up for in proximity to the work site. [You are missing out on some great lines here! But, I'm sticking with the random outcome and only sharing two quotes.] 2) Maybe this one from "The Tornado Auction": When I was a younger man, I liked naming the storms. Shiva, Smash-N-Grab, Jack B. Limber, Calypso the Queen. My daughters got quiet names, each one as sweet and forgettable as a sugar cube dropped into a teacup. Anna, Megan, Susan. You see how it goes for the Bambis and the Rainbows in this world; I wanted the girls, unlike my tornadoes, to travel anywhere they chose without causing a stir. [You're missing a great "definition" of the color turquoise (view spoiler)["Turquoise is what that blue would look like if she divorced the night and went on a fabulous vacation. (hide spoiler)] . Damn. I just cheated.] 3) Okay, I'm cheating here, but as Karen Russell says in "Orange World": "Hans was just a canny motherfucker." This one is also from "Orange World": Rae's mother calls to see how things are going. Her mother would be here, but she is caring for her own mother on the opposite side of the world, in a hospice facility. Her heart is breaking not to be with her daughter, just as Rae's is breaking not to be with her mother and her grandmother. The breaking is continuous--in the ouroboros of caretaking, guilt and love and fear and love continuously swallow one another.

  29. 5 out of 5

    John

    These stories are bonkers crazy. The premises silly, bordering on nonsensical. When you try to explain a Russell story to someone, you sound crazy yourself: A teenager who's first love is a 2000 year old bog girl. A new mother breastfeeding a devil. A retired rancher yearning for one more chance to raise a tornado. But that is her brilliance. She takes fanciful situations, and makes you believe. You love the characters and want to see them through, no matter how ludicrous the setting. Russell writ These stories are bonkers crazy. The premises silly, bordering on nonsensical. When you try to explain a Russell story to someone, you sound crazy yourself: A teenager who's first love is a 2000 year old bog girl. A new mother breastfeeding a devil. A retired rancher yearning for one more chance to raise a tornado. But that is her brilliance. She takes fanciful situations, and makes you believe. You love the characters and want to see them through, no matter how ludicrous the setting. Russell writes extreme realism about unrealistic stories. In a few pages she can unfold deep, rich characters. She grasps what makes people tick, what moves below the surface to make us do what we do. If her stories were based in reality they would be very good. But her brilliance is that she does this all in deep, rich, imagined worlds. There was a point early on in most of the stories where I would pause and think how silly the story is. My rational mind was rebelling. But after coming up for a breath of reality, I quickly plunged back into the tantalizing world Russell was creating. I also kept thinking, "Maybe this time she won't be able to pull this off, this is really far out there." But every time I was wrong. My favorites were Bog Girl and Orange World. Bog Girl captures young love so well. And the objectifying that boys (men) do to girls (women). Cillian wants a passive lover so that his fantasy is never challenged. I feel unqualified to love Orange World, as never having been a nursing mother. But I was entranced. I read both of these stories twice. I felt slightly sad I had already read two of the stories in The Best American Short Stories collections in recent years. I felt greedy, wanting more. It is unfair that some of the joy from this book had already been parceled out. I am pretty sure the author uses the word "orange" in every story. I didn't start noticing til I was almost halfway through, but it seems like a nice little easter egg, apt of the collections title. Start to finish, this book was sheer joy for me. Brilliant writing, taking me to highly imaginative places.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Julian Dunn

    Having now read most of Russell’s oeuvre of both short stories and novels, I can now conclude that she is a much better short story writer than novelist. Given the necessary brevity, short stories are significantly more challenging to craft than novels, and the craftwork itself is often in what is not said and left to the reader’s imagination. There’s no place for an author to hide flaws in character development, setting, or plot. Russell is exceptionally talented in her word selection and unusu Having now read most of Russell’s oeuvre of both short stories and novels, I can now conclude that she is a much better short story writer than novelist. Given the necessary brevity, short stories are significantly more challenging to craft than novels, and the craftwork itself is often in what is not said and left to the reader’s imagination. There’s no place for an author to hide flaws in character development, setting, or plot. Russell is exceptionally talented in her word selection and unusual usage (“the boat vowelled through the water”), as well as for her wry sense of humor. In this, she has few modern peers (amongst them would be George Saunders) yet she often can’t sustain this high level of operational tempo in a novel – q.v. my scathing review of Swamplandia! on this site. That’s not to say that Orange World is without flaws. One always suspects, when reading a collection of short stories, that in arranging their order the author – or maybe their editor? -- knows that the weakest ones are to be put in the middle, bookended by the most remarkable and unique creations. Accordingly, the stories with locations that are familiar to Russell – Portland, Oregon, the Florida Everglades, or corporate America – are the strongest. The ones with more esoteric settings are often strained, and in some cases, require the reader to know the nuances of other pieces of literature (e.g. “Madame Bovary’s Greyhound” meant nothing to me before I looked up the story of Madame Bovary on Wikipedia). That said, Orange World is worth picking up for the half-dozen or so gems in it, and if for no other reason than to indulge in Russell’s creative choice and use of language. In her best moments, the reader is torn between wanting to linger and bask in her descriptions, yet eager to move on to find out how the story will end. It’s the mark of a master.

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