Karen Russell has been on my to-read list for years, and this short story collection was a really delicious introduction to her work. I’ve long associated Russell with magical realism (and it is true that each story in this collection has an element of the fantastical odd), but I was stunned by how deftly Russell uses this to get at the heart of the human experience: a teenage boy falls in love with a bog girl with all of the bittersweet abandon of a first love, a man returns to his former livelihood -- raising tornadoes -- and must reconcile with his role as a father, and in the title story, a new mother makes a deal to breastfeed the devil in order to keep her baby safe, exploring parental love and fear and the pressures of new motherhood in a deep way. The otherworldly meets reality, and when it does, Russell spins magic.
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.
About the Author
KAREN RUSSELL has received a MacArthur Fellowship and a Guggenheim Fellowship, the "5 under 35" prize from the National Book Foundation, the New York Public Library Young Lions Award, and the Berlin Prize from the American Academy. She lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband, son, and daughter.
"Russell creates fully realized worlds. Her writing is particular and alive. Her imagination spills over the sink and hits the backsplash." --Dwight Garner, The New York Times
"[One] of our most original short story writers... [Russell] has impeccable command of her form....Russell’s particular gift lies in taking themes that are close to universal and presenting them in stories whose strangeness comes to seem entirely natural, even necessary." --Emily St. John Mandel, The New York Times book review
“Brilliant... Stunning... Her imagination is boundless.. .Russell's last book, Vampires in the Lemon Grove was far and away one of the best books of 2013, and Orange World proves that the author has only gotten better... Russell is one of the most original American authors working today. She's also one of the best. Orange World is a thing of beauty, a stunning collection from one of the most brilliant literary minds of her generation.” --NPR
"The must-read short-story collection of the summer... Orange World makes me want to shout with joy. Russell's ease with her material, her sheer glee on the page, shines through in each piece... Delicious... We're in the hands of a master." --Washington Post
"Another set of masterpieces…Russell’s language rockets off the page…one of our most entrancing storytellers.” --Vogue
"[A] masterpiece... Incandescent... horror always cohabits with humor... [A] superb collection." --The Wall Street Journal
"I kept Hawthorne in mind while reading Russell's astonishing new stories... Russell seems the most natural storyteller alive, so completely does she give herself to premises that might undo a lesser writer." --Dan Chiasson, New York Review of Books
"Is there a colorist in American fiction with the same vivid talents as Karen Russell?... Her stories read like a moon-lit fantasia of these wrenching days when up is down and nature is in full revolt. These eight fabulous yarns span the globe, from the Dalmatian coast to Florida in the near future, when Miami is a watery grave... These tales are not short, but they feel even roomier owing to the way Russell cracks open narrative space with humor. Her descriptions are 21st century Dickensian genius... Russell is also the greatest user of verbs in American fiction since Annie Dillard... In these stories, though, Russell reveals we don’t have to be silent. We can shout as does this book. Look for it, with its color, it won’t be hard to find. It’s a beacon." --The Boston Globe
"Marvelous... Startlingly inventive stories which confirm Russell's status as master of the slipstream." --San Francisco Chronicle
"A feast of invention and a fun house of surprising wisdom, Orange World contains a ghost-ship lodge, tourist trade in a post-apocalyptic drowned city, a tornado farm, a local succubus. Karen Russell moves from the farcical to the forbidden with tender conviction. Don't miss this book of marvels!" --Louise Erdrich
"Russell is a master of landscapes exterior and interior, with Orange World moving as deftly through a future Florida underwater as through 'that topography of the early weeks and months right after childbirth'... She has always used a phantasmagorical road map to chart her way through emotional terrain." --Portland Monthly
"[A] brilliantly inventive... wonderful new collection of short stories...Russell grounds each story in human experience, both poignant and hilarious in turn... Underlying all of this is the exquisite beauty of Russell’s sentences, which will repeatedly surprise readers with their imagery and masterful language." --BookPage [starred review]
"Eight crisp stories that will leave longtime fans hungry for more. Since her debut more than a decade ago, Russell has exhibited a commitment to turning recognizable worlds on their heads in prose so rich that sentences almost burst at the seams. Her third collection is no exception, and its subjects—forgotten pockets of violent American history, climate-related apocalypse, the trials of motherhood—feel fresh and urgent in her care...A momentous feat of storytelling in an already illustrious career." --Kirkus Reviews [starred review]
"Virtuoso Russell, gifted with acute insights, compassion, and a daring, free-diving imagination, explores the bewitching and bewildering dynamic between "the voracious appetite of nature and its yawning indifference" and humankind's relentless profligacy and obliviousness." --Booklist [starred review]
"Amidst the leading pack of talents Karen Russell writes the most like she’s on fire, as in: this close to revelations. Orange World is her best collection yet. Her imagination’s baroque syntax has been planed down to the absolute essentials, allowing the power of her vision to speak for itself...This is prophetic work written with clarifying fury." --John Freeman, Lit Hub