My short story club (insert dork joke here) read the title tale, which I loved, so I grabbed a copy of the book and was not disappointed. As I read it, I found that I had read two other stories (Haunting Olivia and Accident Brief, Occurrence # 00/422) in the New Yorker already. This collection is peopled with strange, wild, earthy characters, much like the Everglades, where all but one of the stories are set, and reminds me of Lewis Nordan's swampy but sweet Mississippi tales. The narrators are young, kids or teens, and have the sense of being aliens, of otherness, and struggling to understand the world and people around them (I know--isn't every book?). This is beautifully realized in the title story. 15 little girls have been brought to St. Lucy's with the aim of being taught to function as humans and deprogramming them of their baser, canine instincts. There is mastery in Russell's storytelling and her descriptions, absolutely hilarious one minute (so many chewed shoes) and wrenchingly sad the next, mirror the feral glee of being wolf-girls and the somber transformation of becoming acceptable young ladies. Loneliness and sadness permeate these stories accompanied by an occasional glimpse of redemption that is often just out of reach. Throughout the collection the characters struggle with the uncertainty that if they find what they're looking for (or what they think they're looking for or what they're told to look for), what will they do with it? Will it really change anything or will it change everything.
Russell was 24 when this was published a couple of years ago. Savor this and wait for more.