Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Review: Orange World and Other Stories

Karen Russell is a highly awarded author whose stories are both beautiful and unsettling. Her newest collection, Orange World and Other Stories, is full of tales of worlds that are just a bit more bizarre than the one we live in.

The book starts with a pair of friends hoping to take advantage of a few marks at a fancy hotel, only to discover that the party they've crashed is attended only by ghosts. In The Bad Graft and Bog Girl, characters spend time in nature as a woman pricks her finger on a Joshua tree and a young man falls in love with the body of a woman pulled from the bog. It's not the only pairing, as men consider their purposes in The Tornado Auction and Black Corfu (although careers raising tornadoes and preventing the undead from rising are as different as can be). The final two stories may have been my favorite, though. In The Gondoliers, sisters traverse the dangerous waters of a post-apocalyptic Florida by singing and in Orange World, a new mother encounters a devil who preys on her fears and demands to be fed.

The stories are often funny and always dropping you into strange, new worlds. Russell is a literary wizard who imagines scenarios that could never exist in any other writer's head. Somehow in the midst of ghosts, zombies, and devils, she makes us think about the most vulnerable moments of our humanity and how we make decisions for ourselves and the people we love.  I can't wait to see what strange and beautiful places Russell will take us next.

Orange World and Other Stories
By Karen Russell
Knopf Publishing Group May 2019
288 pages
From the library

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