Vampires in the Lemon Grove.

Author:Russell, Karen
Position:Book review


By Karen Russell

Karen Russell's debut collection, St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves (2006), helped garner her the "5 Under 35" award from the National Book Foundation. Her novel Swamplandia! (**** SELECTION May/June 2011) was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 2012.


THE STORIES: In these eight stories, Russell melds the fantastical with the mundane, the gothic with the traditional, to create a collection quite unlike any other. The title story follows the century-long courtship of two vampires in Italy, who must face the reality of their traditional marriage. In "Reeling for the Empire," female peasant slaves in a sweatshop in Meiji-era Japan drink tea that transmutes them into human silkworms. "The New Veterans" features a lonely, middle-aged massage therapist who exhibits healing powers to an Iraq war veteran with PTSD and a tattoo of a violent attack. Eleven former U.S. presidents find themselves reincarnated as horses in "The Barn at the End of Our Term." In "The Graveless Doll of Eric Mutis," four teenage boys from New Jersey discover a scarecrow that bears an uncanny resemblance to a boy they bullied.

Knopf. 256 pages. $25.95. ISBN: 9780307957238

San Francisco Chronicle *****

"What makes this new book so remarkable is that while a few stories tread on familiar terrain, Russell is equally committed to mapping out completely new territory. ... Reading this marvelous book, I felt the way one of its characters, Samson, feels about surfing: 'It's like you're coasting outside of time, outside your own skin.'" MOLLY ANTOPOL

Washington Post *****

"Karen Russell's third book ... should cement her reputation as one of the most remarkable fantasists writing today. ... This exquisite precision and conflation of the commonplace with the marvelous is a hallmark of Russell's prose style, infusing her work with a sense of the uncanny that keeps a reader off balance right until the last sentence." ELIZABETH HAND

Cleveland Plain Dealer ****

"Comic, yes. Deeply thoughtful, yes. Fabulist, horror writer, coming of age specialist--don't fuss with labels for this genre-buster. As in both St. Lucy's and her Pulitzer Prize-nominated novel, Swamplandia!, Russell continues to swing out over her own crazy abyss and land happily on the other side." TRICIA SPRINGSTUBB

Miami Herald ****

"The collection serves her well; her imagination is once again on full, Technicolor, mind-bending display. ... If Vampires in the Lemon...

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