Karen Russell’s Vampires in the Lemon Grove is a collection of fantastical short stories that take something that is known and warp it into something almost unrecognizable. In the first story, the vampires suck on lemons to ease their need for blood and are stagnating in a 600 year old relationship. But they’re hoping to keep going since they’re the only vampires they’ve ever met. Its a story of survival and loneliness.
In “Reeling for the Empire”, young girls believe they sign on to become a silk worker for the empire and have found a way to better themselves and their family circumstances, but really have been sold into slavery. When they arrive at their factory, they are imprisoned and must begin producing silk. They mutate into silk worms and are required to produce their own silk for the empire and their own comfort. This story is a creative fantasy of what factories once promised and how they slowly destroyed so many people.
Some of the other stories weren’t as compelling as these two, or maybe I just didn’t give them the time they needed. I wasn’t expecting a series of stories when I picked up the book and it was a little off putting. However, once I got over my own expectations, the style of the writing is great and the creativity shines through and some of the stories were a great read. I don’t think I devoted enough energy into some of the stories to really figure out what Russell was trying to accomplish, but these two stories really stuck with me.
Mid-reading, I heard an interview on NPR with the Karen Russell since she just won an award for her writing. She sounded so down to earth and normal, that its amazing that her mind created these different worlds for her characters to try to survive.
Read September 2013