Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves
" Since retiring, my father has gotten to
be on the largish side for a Minotaur, not fat so much as robust, and
now he gathered his bulk to an impressive eighteen hands high. He pawed
at the earthen floor. (Ma liked to complain about this, Dad’s
cloven trenches in our kitchen. “Go do your gouging out of
doors, like a respectable animal!”)"
Reviewed by Sarah Salway
cover of this collection blazes how the author is a twenty-five year
old "wunderkind," "a girl on fire," "blazingly original", "a dazzling
debut", "a breath-taking discovery." Phew. The sound of publishing
hands rubbing together with joy at the thought of a young, beautiful
AND talented author made it hard to concentrate, but once I had got to
the first story, I wondered if all the hype did this book any favours.
It’s not that I didn’t agree with it. I do, this is
a dazzling debut, but these stories have something quieter and more
judged about them than the exuberant fireworks I was
In the title
story, a pack of young werewolves – "all hair and snarl and
floor-thumping joy" – are converted into young ladies by the
nuns of St Lucy’s. Not surprisingly, it is an uncomfortable
transformation, and Russell conjures up laugh out loud scenes such as
when the werewolves are tested by having to feed the ducks, rather than
eat them. But Russell is skilful enough to take a clever premise even
further, and it is the relationship between the wolf-narrator and
Mirabella, a pack member who will not conform, which takes centre
stage. When the narrator betrays Mirabella, it is as hearbreaking as
the last line when she finally returns back to the cave, a successful
said, telling my first
human lie. “I’m home.”’
more need be said about what has been lost through being "civilised".
In fact, betrayal and casual childish cruelty are strong themes in
these stories, providing a needed cohesion to a collection otherwise
overloaded with outlandish settings and plots.
perfectly, such as when a boy is forced by his mother to become friends
with an orphaned mute. "Be that friend!" chorus his
sisters at him, and in that phrase alone you can taste their joy at
their brother’s pain. In places, however, I found the cruelty
too much for the balance of the story, such as Raffy and
Marta’s exploitation of the albino, Petey, in The
Star-Gazer’s Log of Summer-Time Crime.
Out to Sea was
possibly my favourite story. It is full of the same acute observations
that force me to watch The Office from behind my sofa. The old man
Sawtooth’s growing obsession with Angie, his unsatisfactory
visitor in the No
Elder Person is an Island Volunteer
Program, means he ignores her obvious distaste for him,
as she licks the space where his amputed limb would be. The way Russell
shows the gratitude with which Sawtooth finally starts to feel
something for another human makes this an unlikely, awful, but
strangely touching, love story.
stories, a Minotaur takes his family on a pioneering journey,
a child at a sleep camp for "disordered dreamers"
tries not to dream of future tragedies, and a child gets stuck in a
Giant Conch at the City of Shells amusement park.
Salway is the author of two novels, Something Beginning With
and Tell Me Everything, and two collections of short stories, Leading
the Dance and Messages (co-authored with Lynne Rees). She teaches
creative writing and lives in London.
has been featured in both The New Yorker’s debut fiction
and New York magazine’s 25 people to watch under the age of
Her fiction has recently appeared in Conjunctions, Granta, Zoetrope and
The New Yorker. She lives in New York City.
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San Francisco Chronicle