Vampires in the Lemon Grove by Karen Russell

Vampires in the Lemon Grove book coverFirst Impressions
I normally don’t like short story collections.  I prefer books that pull me in, keep me absorbed for 400+ pages, and leave me (more than a bit) wistful when they end. But Vampires in the Lemon Grove is shockingly good.  The stories are short (sometimes too short), but the world-building is superb.  You feel that every place in the book is absolutely real and improbably inhabited by the most fantastical characters that are as understandable as you or me.

The emotional impact of many of the stories is devastating and tense.  I found myself setting the book down several times in order to lessen the tension I was feeling.  But the overwhelming concern and fascination I felt for various protagonists kept me coming back for more.

The writing in this collection is also amazing. It is clear, crisp, and innovative.  Russell tends to brief in her prose, but the impact is powerful and lingering.

Drive-by Summary
Vampires in the Lemon Grove is comprised of eight short stories written by author, Karen Russell, who wrote the award-winning Swamplandia!.  Each story is a self-contained world filled with unlikely, unusual, and disquieting people that inhabit realities much like our own.

My Favorite Story
“Barn at the End of Our Term” is hands down the funniest and most bittersweet story in Vampires in the Lemon Grove.

The story follows Rutherford B. Hayes, a former US president who has been reincarnated as “a skewbald pinto” and is stabled with ten other former, and equally transformed, presidents somewhere in Kentucky.  This absurd tale takes a turn for the profound as Hayes wanders the property looking for his wife or his freedom –whichever comes first.

Words to live by
“I think we needed that librarian to follow us around the hallways for every minute of every school day, reading us her story of our lives, her fine script of who we were and our activities — but of course she couldn’t do this, and we did get lost.”

Recommended For
Horror fans, fantasy-lovers, literary adventurers, and prose geeks who want a quick, satisfying read.

Final Say
This book is bizarre, heartbreaking, and deeply weird.  It is also fun and well-deserving of the praise I am lavishing upon it.

You can grab a copy  of Vampires in the Lemon Grove at the Bellingham Public Library.

— Katie



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