Summary and book reviews of Vampires in the Lemon Grove by Karen Russell

Vampires in the Lemon Grove

Stories

By Karen Russell

Vampires in the Lemon Grove
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  • Hardcover: Feb 2013,
    256 pages.
    Paperback: Jan 2014,
    256 pages.

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Book Summary

In the collection's marvelous title story, two aging vampires in a sun-drenched Italian lemon grove find their hundred-year marriage tested when one of them develops a fear of flying. In "The Seagull Army Descends on Strong Beach, 1979," a dejected teenager discovers that the universe is communicating with him through talismanic objects left in a seagull's nest.

"Proving Up" and "The Graveless Doll of Eric Mutis" - stories of children left to fend for themselves in dire predicaments - find Russell veering into more sinister territory, and ultimately crossing the line into full-scale horror. In "The New Veterans," a massage therapist working with a tattooed war veteran discovers she has the power to heal by manipulating the images on his body.

In all, these wondrous new pieces display a young writer of superlative originality and invention coming into the full range and scale of her powers.

Excerpt
Vampires in the Lemon Grove

In October, the men and women of Sorrento harvest the primo­fiore, or "first flowering fruit," the most succulent lemons; in March, the yellow bianchetti ripen, followed in June by the green verdelli. In every season you can find me sitting at my bench, watching them fall. Only one or two lemons tumble from the branches each hour, but I've been sitting here so long their falls seem contiguous, close as raindrops. My wife has no patience for this sort of meditation. "Jesus Christ, Clyde," she says. "You need a hobby."

Most people mistake me for a small, kindly Italian grand­father, a nonno. I have an old nonno's coloring, the dark walnut stain peculiar to southern Italians, a tan that won't fade until I die (which I never will). I wear a neat periwinkle shirt, a canvas sunhat, black suspenders that sag at my chest. My loafers are battered but always polished. The few visitors to the lemon grove who notice me smile blankly ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. Discuss the relationship between Clyde and Magreb, the two vampires in the title story whose hundred-year marriage is tested when one of them develops a fear of flying. Do you think the author believes they have a good marriage? What is the impact of Clyde's inability to transmute? Consider this quote from the beginning of the story: "I once pictured time as a black magnifying glass and myself as a microscopic flightless insect trapped in that circle of night. But then Magreb came along, and eternity ceased to frighten me." What is the author saying here about mortal—and immortal—love?
  2. How might "Vampires in the Lemon Grove" be read as a parable of appetite and addiction? Note the linguistic forms in which the author ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse

There are many reasons to read Vampires in the Lemon Grove - highly imaginative characters, stunning language, penetrating insights into the human condition, and thought-provoking situations – but the primary reason to read this collection is that it is a great read.   (Reviewed by Sarah Sacha Dollacker).

Full Review Members Only (913 words).

Media Reviews
Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Russell's great gift...is her ability to create whole landscapes and lifetimes of strangeness within the confines of a short story.

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review. Even more impressive than Russell's critically acclaimed novel.

Library Journal

Her new collection echoes the witty lusciousness of her first novel, Pulitzer finalist Swamplandia! (also a New York Times and a No. 1 Indie Next best seller and a New York Times Book Review Top Ten)... A few stories, like those about abandoned children, lose the wit and lusciousness and go all dark.

Booklist

Starred Review. Russell 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…Mind-blowing, mythic, macabre, hilarious.

Elle

An eight-tale adrenaline-delivery system packed with long-married, problem-beset monsters, abandoned children whose lives are in dire peril, teens with creepy sixth senses, and masseuses with inexplicable healing powers…Darkly inventive, demonically driven narratives set in the author’s inimitable imaginative disturbia.

Bullett Magazine

Karen Russell casts another spell with her otherworldly collection of stories…Is she a Southern Gothicist? A parabolist? A moralist? Do her stories expand upon old histories, or create new, fantastical explanations for them? But the stories, without ever confining themselves to one genre or tradition, speak for themselves.

Reader Reviews
Diane S.

Vampires in the Lemon Grove
Truly imaginative and so very well written. Some though were a little creepy even for me. Loved the first story, which is very unusual for me because even the word vampire will set me running, but in this case it did not. Open minded a bit, gave it a...   Read More

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The Grotesque in Literature

Although 'grotesque' has become a general adjective for the strange or disturbing, and can be seen in various art forms from literature to architecture, the term also refers to a sub-genre of Southern Gothic literature. This literature utilizes themes of disturbing characters, haunting landscapes, and sinister events (all elements of Gothic literature, from which the Southern Gothic tradition derives) to explore social problems, such as poverty, alienation, and violence. The grotesque takes these elements further to highlight the monstrous, deeply flawed and decayed. The grotesque is usually divided into three categories: doubleness, hybridity, and metamorphosis. Doubleness refers to duplication and can be used to illustrate the presence of...

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