“Bog Girl” by Karen Russell
Card picked: 4♠
Found at: The New Yorker
I don’t remember if I recognized Karen Russell when I added this story to my deck. Her novel Swamplandia! has been on the periphery of my TBR-eventually list. In this case, Swamplandia! will probably be bumped up the queue. One of the best reasons to read short stories is to get a taste for a writer you’re not familiar with.
The young turf-cutter fell hard for his first girlfriend while operating heavy machinery in the peatlands.
The girl that Cillian, the turf-cutter, falls for is a bog girl, a preserved corpse thousands of years old.
I’ve read a couple of magical realism novels this year and I was once again thrown into a off-kilter world where Bog Girl retains her slightly blue skin, coppery hair, and enigmatic smile despite being exposed to the air. Also, Cillian is allowed to take her home. His mother isn’t pleased. She’s afraid that Cillian will screw up his young life over the love of a girl, though instead of getting her pregnant, what if he decides to do something rash like going to the bog with her to stay?
Everyone else is pretty chill with Cillian’s silent girlfriend. She becomes rather popular at his high school. The in-crowd girls like her because she’s thin and will wear anything they give her. In fact, one of the things that Cillian like most about her is that she will silently, and smilingly, agree with his future plans.
Of course, everything changes one night when Bog Girl wakes up…
The writing is beautiful. While this story is sometimes uncomfortable, it doesn’t reach the level of unease that a Joyce Carol Oates story might.