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Vampires in the Lemon Grove: Stories Hardcover – Deckle Edge, February 12, 2013

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Editorial Reviews Review

Amazon Best Books of the Month, February 2013: Karen Russell's first two books (St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves and Swamplandia!) were triumphs of craft and imagination, heralding an exciting new voice in fiction. Her new story collection, Vampires in the Lemon Grove--eight strange tales that might be described as the descendant of Bradbury's The October Country, if that book had been written in the throes of a fever dream--will only expand that reputation. Russell doesn't (or maybe can't) limit herself to any particular genre: The title story leads with a twist on its seemingly undead subject; the prairie Gothic of "Proving Up" draws an apocalyptic landscape worthy of Lovecraft; and "The Graveless Doll of Eric Mutis" examines the dawn of conscience in a thoroughly spooky coming-of-age story worthy of its title. Despite their range, all are tied by Russell's inventive language and her boundless, dark vision. Vampires is at once lush and stark, and above all, thrillingly unnerving. --Jon Foro

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*Starred Review* Russell’s electrically original short stories propelled her into the literary limelight, then her first novel, Swamplandia! (2011), was chosen as finalist for the Pulitzer and the first Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction. In her third book, she returns to the story form with renewed daring, leading us again into uncharted terrain, though as fantastic as the predicaments she imagines are, the emotions couldn’t be truer to life as we usually know it. So even though the troubles of a long-married couple are complicated by the fact that they are vampires, and she can transform herself into a bat while he can only pose as “a small, kindly Italian grandfather,” their catastrophic heartache is all human. The same holds true for the courage and ingenuity Kitsune summons in confronting the horror of her brutal metamorphosis and enslavement in a Japanese silk mill. Ditto for President Rutherford Hayes when he finds himself reincarnated in the body of a horse. From the grueling Food Chain Games in Antarctica to terror on the prairie in the sod-house era, Russell, in the same vein as Jim Shepard and George Saunders though unique in her outlook, continues her mind-blowing, mythic, macabre, hilarious, and tender inquiry into the profound link between humans and animals, and what separates us. --Donna Seaman

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; First Edition edition (February 12, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780307957238
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307957238
  • ASIN: 0307957233
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 8.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (221 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #180,881 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Karen Russell has a amazing imagination.
Jenny Miller
I know these are short stories, but it felt like the author just didn't know what the point of her stories were or how to end them, so she just stopped writing.
J. Fix
She helps us understand the difficulty of grasping the pain and alienation others live day by day.
Lois Barliant

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

56 of 64 people found the following review helpful By Brendan Moody TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on December 29, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The title story of Karen Russell's new collection achieved an unusual distinction: appearing not only in the 2008 volume of THE BEST AMERICAN SHORT STORIES, but also in the 2008 volume of THE YEAR'S BEST FANTASY AND HORROR. It's not hard to see why. Like the other seven stories here, "Vampires in the Lemon Grove" captures a particular slice of human experience so distinctively that genre boundaries are revealed anew as the pointless distraction they are. The truly remarkable thing about Russell is not that she merges "genre" and "literary"-- many writers do-- but that she transmutes her story ideas, often peculiar even by genre standards, from the stuff of whimsical frivolity into melancholy or downright tragic portraits of our best and worst impulses. This makes her fiction, like that of George Saunders or Sherman Alexie, at once hilarious and heartbreaking. As one character puts it, "Yeah, that's pretty funny. Except that, I mean, it sounds really awful, too..."

"Vampires in the Lemon Grove" is perhaps the least unusual of these stories, simply because the vampire is so overexposed a figure that even the most refreshing take on it feels a little old hat. What we have here is a reformed vampire named Clyde (ha?) who, having discovered with the help of his wife, also a vampire, that drinking blood doesn't help and that many of the old superstitions are just that, has taken to lemon juice as a humane substitute. But when Clyde's wife suggests it may be time for a change, old habits threaten to reassert themselves. Lacking the emotional intensity of some of the later stories, this is nonetheless a clever meditation on the appeal of bad behavior and the precariousness of redemption.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Cynthia on March 11, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
"The Lemon Grove" is an inventive group of short stories. There are some real gems in this collection. It is one of those books that defy genre categorization. Russell's style is very literary though you certainly don't have your feet planted in the everyday world. There are elements of fantasy and science fiction and horror. Also, she has a knack for putting sentences and thoughts together in an individual way. Here are a few examples: "{She} read books and moved through the world as if she were afraid her footsteps might wake it." "Outside of my mind I can barely see." "He's a rumor...he's smoke..." These are a few examples. At a certain point I put my pencil down and just read.

There's a winged motif running through most of these stories if, at times, only on the periphery...bats, seagulls, moths even angels. These multiple references to flying tie in with the fanciful nature of Russell's writing. There's also sadness. She confronts loss, unrequited love, a warrior's battle scars, and unknown unknowable evil, evil that's made worse for being undefined, etc. Though all these stories have merit I found them uneven. `Proving Up' was positively creepy as was `The Graveless Doll of Eric Mutis' and `Reeling for the Empire' read like an allegory. All of them were beyond normal happenings but there was something fundamentally true and human in them. The supernatural aspects in Russell's writing reminded of Shirley Jackson. Russell's tone often had William Trevor's emotional intensity where evil seems to hover just outside reality. The best stories in this collection were immensely satisfying which made those that were less so seem more starkly lacking though probably if I'd encountered them elsewhere I wouldn't have felt this so strongly. This book is an adventure.
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26 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Ken C. TOP 1000 REVIEWER on January 12, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Deep Breadth. An oxymoron, sure, but this 8-pack of not-so-short stories has it in spades. We have send-ups of vampire stories, Gothic Old West stories, contemporary stories, horror stories, humorous stories -- everything but haiku, practically. And, if your thing is "writers' writers," you've come to the right lemon grove. Karen Russell's best friends are words. She plays around with language, with sentences, with unexpected words, and she exults in it. Sometimes you just pause and say, "Nice."

But what about the stories, plot-wise, you ask? Well, it's like this. Some are more satisfying than others. They're meaty stories, for one. Most of them are in the neighborhood of 30 pages, so when they're not working they become a slog. When that happens, you feel Russell could use a touch of Maxwell Perkins' scissors. But that's a quibble, over all, because mostly you don't notice the pages flipping by. Description and character are Russell's forte. And weirdness. Together they keep things moving.

"Vampires in the Lemon Grove" has some fun with the sitting-duck genre of vampire lit -- an earth well scorched by the TWILIGHT series. This vampire couple is on the wagon. No. More. Blood. Strictly sinking their teeth into lemons. And about this sun problem? Bah. These vampires wear sunglasses. Florida is safe no more. The collection gets stranger still with "Reeling for the Empire," wherein young ladies are converted into the sorority sister equivalent of silk worms in the province of Dystopia, Japan (or maybe it's one island over). Odd isn't the word for it.. "Proving Up" is a bit reminiscent of Stewart O'Nan's A PRAYER FOR THE DYING. Old West gothic. But you have to admit, it shows Russell's versatility. Even if she does use a little kid to do it (flag on the play).
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