BookBin2014: Vampires in the Lemon Grove


I was already going to write a laudatory review of Karen Russell’s short story collection Vampires in the Lemon Grove. After only three stories, I was completely in love with Russell’s rather idiosyncratic storytelling style. Her characters inhabit worlds that are recognizable in certain ways, completely foreign in others. She chooses periods and places that you might assume at first glance won’t be at all interesting, and then she does beautiful things with words that make it impossible not to fall deeper and deeper down the rabbit hole of her curious mind.

Yes, I was already going to praise this book and declare that I needed to add it to my own library. Then I arrived at the story “The New Veterans” and I realized that I loved Russell and needed to read everything she has ever written. Why? Her protagonist in “The New Veterans.” Her protagonist’s name, more precisely.

Beverly McFadden.

I literally laughed out loud. If you’re a dork like me, I hope you’re laughing out loud, too. Or at least smiling in a knowing way.

Yeah, beyond the nerdy joy of that unexpected gift, Russell delivers stories that are equally unexpected. If you like stories that offer neatly packaged resolutions with every ending, then this is probably not going to be your cuppa. Many of the stories have delightfully open-ended conclusions, leaving you to ponder the next scene. I personally like stories like that. It allows me a deeper level of engagement as well as a wonderful freedom to unleash my imagination to play in other worlds.

All in all, Russell is a wondrous surprise of a discovery, her stories showcasing an obvious adoration for linguistics and a penchant for peculiarity seasoned perfectly with a pinch of humor and a pinch of horror. I can’t wait to read more from her.

Final Verdict: Finally, a library discovery that I have happily added to my own wishlist.