Category: Short Stories
By Light We Knew Our Names: 5/5
St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves: 4/5
A Guide to Being Born: 3.5/5
All these 3 collections fall under fabulist/magical realism genres and I feel it works phenomenally well for short stories, as you are required to suspend belief only for a short while, and is a perfect form of escapism letting you flit in and out of stories. The writing style is also absolutely stunning in all 3 and such a treat to read.
If I had to pick, my absolute favourite was ‘By Light we knew our names’ by Anne Valente. I’d recommend this even if you are unsure whether you enjoy magical realism. This collection sort of straddles the border between believable and imaginary. The underlying theme of this collection deals with loss in some form or the other and it’s just so perfect. I wouldn’t rate a short story collection as 5 stars unless each individual story is (or very close to) a 5 star read and this collection did just that. The stories in this collection are realistic but have a sort of weird/magical realism-esque undertone to it. Some stories are more realistic, some others distinctly surreal and some sort of straddle the border and could be arguably either. So it would be the perfect choice if you are not sure whether you enjoy magical realism, but you want to give it a try, nonetheless.
The general theme within most of the stories in this collection deal with loss in some form or the other and its so incredibly beautifully captured. It just left me in awe of how touching, painful, real and tangible words on a page can be, and how it can invoke such powerful emotions from within. The stories in this collection explore sadness, humour, joy, science, mystery, magic and our relationships with the natural world with incredible deftness and I was completely consumed into every story. And. I have to talk about Anne Valente’s writing. It’s absolutely stunning and fluid without being overdone. This collection was just perfect in every single way, and it is one of the best books I have ever read. And one that I know I’ll keep revisiting.
The other 2 lean to the more weirder side of the spectrum, some stories sub par, but most others, real gems. I did prefer St.Lucy’s Home slightly over the other. The title story in St.Lucy’s Home is about group of girls born amongst wolves, wild and untamed, and they are brought to this foster home which tries to slowly train them to behave like normal young women. This book is a collection of ten short stories and all of them have a weird/absurd element to it. I initially struggled with this collection, as Karen Russell’s writing style is extremely lyrical, fluid and literary and not all that easy to understand. But 2 stories into the book, I got a sense of her writing, the weirdness of her stories and I started loving it! I have to admit that I had to look up a couple of the words or re-read paragraphs as her choice of words and writing are mind blowing! Some stories are bit more bizarre than others but each one is so VERY unique and imaginative and dark and twisted. Another aspect I loved about the book, which some might find annoying, is that most of the stories sort of end abruptly. Like there isn’t a twist or a completeness to it and sort of leaves you guessing. I actually loved that. I loved the fact that some of the stories abruptly ended when you least expect it and leaves you craving for more.
With regards to each individual story, the first was my least favourite, I’d give it 2 stars. It was bit too bizarre for my liking. 2 & 3, were 3 star reads, I started to enjoy the absurdity and get a grasp of the writing. 5 & 6, were 4 stars. 4,7,8,9 and 10, absolutely adored it, 5 stars! (Bottomline: Its not your usual vanilla, realistic, easy to read/understand short story collection. All her stories are strictly in the genre of magical realism. Some bizarre and borderline uncomfortable, but brilliant writing and I genuinely loved most of the stories. Would definitely recommend if you do enjoy weird, witty and twisted stories!)
In A Guide to being born, my favourite was a story about 2 young parents of a mentally challenged 8 year old girl and how they deal with the situation when her body undergoes the normal changes with puberty but the mind remains that of an infant. So incredibly delicate and touching. Another one I loved, was about a group of grandmas on a metaphorical ship to the afterlife.
Overall would recommend all three!