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Vampires in the Lemon Grove: Stories

3.68  ·  Rating details ·  20,308 ratings  ·  2,857 reviews
Named a Best Book of the Year by:
The Boston Globe
O, The Oprah Magazine
Huffington Post
The A.V. Club

A Washington Post Notable Book
An NPR Great Read of 2013

From the author of the novel Swamplandia!—a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize—comes a magical and uniquely daring collection of stories that showcases the author’s gifts at their inimitable best.

Within these pages, a commun
Hardcover, 243 pages
Published February 12th 2013 by Knopf
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Andrew Pick it up and open it. Be careful it's not upside down.…morePick it up and open it. Be careful it's not upside down.(less)
Joshua Whiting This is a collection of stand-alone short stories, so the point of view in each story is completely different and each story works according to its ow…moreThis is a collection of stand-alone short stories, so the point of view in each story is completely different and each story works according to its own narrative rules.(less)

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LeeAnn Heringer
Over hyped, over rated, did not live up to my expectations.

Every one of the 8 very short stories in this collection has a wonderful premise -- vampires who thirst for something other than blood, team krill at the ice floe of Antarctica, women trapped in a Japanese factory, flocks of seagulls stealing the parts of our future we most need, dead presidents as stabled horses, etc. And the language itself is poetic and beautiful and sometimes says the most startling things, but...

The author can't tel
Gerry O'Malley
Mar 13, 2013 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: Fans of short story fiction and students of creative writing
If I had to summarize this collection of short stories in a word it would be "frustrating". Karen Russell is clearly a very gifted writer and several of these short stories approach masterful, but here is the problem - I don't think she knows how to finish a story. Each one of these little gems is unique and unlike any other story in the book - indeed, the style of the story varies wildly and wonderfully from story to story. Each story begins as a wonderfully weird little idea gem and Russell wr ...more
this collection only has eight stories in it compared to the ten in her last collection, so on one hand, i feel cross because i always want more from her, but on the other hand, the stories i liked, i liked a lot. but i'm greedy, and sometimes 8 is not enough.

but they are good, and i liked each story more than the one preceding it. in fact, the only one i wasn't crazy about was the second story,reeling for the empire, which felt like the longest story, but might not have been.

greg snatched this
Karen Russell seems to have jumped out of nowhere onto the mainstream literary scene with the publication of her first collection of stories St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves in 2006, at the age of 25. Her stories were published in Oxford American, The New Yorker and The Best American Short Stories. Her 2011 novel Swamplandia! was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 2012. This is her latest collection of short fiction, which also served as my introduction to her work.

Collections of sho
Oct 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Michael by: Maciek
I was delighted by this collection of weird and wonderful stories. Almost as sprightly as Murakami and sometimes leaning toward the flavor of Annie Proulx’s gothic tall tales and encounters with supernatural in her collections on the American West.

In the title story an ancient married couple, who happen to be immortal vampires, live among the gentry immigrated to Sorrento in sunny Italy. Magred and Clyde keep up a refined banter worthy of the anti-heroes in Pulp Fiction. At the end of the day o
Apr 15, 2014 rated it really liked it
God damn it, Karen Russell.

She's just too good at this, guys, and it's driving me crazy. No one should be able to do what Karen Russell does - her particular brand of magical realism, where the supernatural and suburban America blend seamlessly, is like nothing I've ever encountered before. It just isn't fair that all that talent got concentrated in one person.

Vampires in the Lemon Grove is Russell's second collection of short stories - in my review of her first book, St. Lucy's Home for Girls
Jenny (Reading Envy)
I had been looking forward to this book coming out, because I loved Karen Russell's first book of short stories, St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves. These stories did not disappoint! I was curious to see if there would be more set in Florida, but these span from Italy to New Jersey to the plains to Antarctica. And just as I would have expected, the stories are at times startling, amusing, and sad. I will just say a few words about each, but this is a must-read.

Vampires in the Lemon Grove
Mar 15, 2013 rated it it was ok
Just couldn't get into this one. The stories really struggled with narrative momentum. The title story and the second story are both very good. Then things... wane. ...more
Jun 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I'm not ordinarily a fan of the short story form but having read the first 2 stories in this collection, I am making an exception. Karen Russell is wonderfully weird.
The more I read, the more amazed I am. I've read 7 of the stories now. How a 30 year old woman can write this is beyond me....she must be an old soul, a brilliant old soul. I keep thinking I've just read my favorite story in the collection and then I read another one, and then I have new favorite.
Feb 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This collection sees Karen Russell shift the balance between concept and narrative. While she has always handled both deftly, she made a name for herself by creating fantastical and fabulist scenarios. Those still remain, but the unreal elements of her stories seem subtler, serving to nudge the reader just outside of the possible, to let them see her deeply human narratives from a uniquely revealing angle. That’s because Russell is all about what's human, even if the human is sometimes a scarecr ...more
Feb 06, 2013 rated it really liked it
Karen Russell is in heat check mode.

After the Pulitzer committee decided in 2011 that no great novels made the cut for the award (itself a pathetic heat check, the flailing of an organization disguised as stunting), Russell went ahead and planted her talent somewhere in Florida and here in this collection.

Do you think the Pulitzer committee just thought, "Naw, that Swamplandia! is set in America's wang. I love a drive-thru pharmacy with a prescribing NP hanging out the window like it's a Benze
Aaron Arnold
Mar 27, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2013, fiction
I haven't read Swamplandia!, her widely acclaimed novel, but I only liked a few of these short stories so I might not search it out, even if it was a Pulitzer finalist. I don't really have a problem with her writing technique per se - she can come up with good ways to describe things and there aren't any dumb sentences in here or anything - it's just that a lot of these stories don't end up being very interesting or compelling, with a few exceptions. All of these stories involve somewhat fantast ...more
Feb 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: short-stories
Given my absolute love for Aimee Bender, it seems that Karen Russell should be a perfect read-alike. She too throws reality out the window if it gets in the way of her storytelling. She invests her characters with strange powers and physical deformities that defy natural laws. She writes strong women and young people and skewers traditions and politics effortlessly.

But, I have to be honest, I came to this collection with a bad taste in my mouth from Swamplandia!, which was decidedly underwhelmi
Diane S ☔
Aug 16, 2012 rated it really liked it
3.5 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 chnace and was presently surprised. Must be the lemons. I would like to get a glimpse into this author's mind, must be such an interesting place. Wavered between 3 and 4, 3 because some of them were quite a bit out there and 4 because the writin ...more
Mar 11, 2013 rated it really liked it
Russell Proves Up

“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 wo
Catina Martinez
Mar 25, 2013 rated it really liked it
Appreciating this book was a slow process for me. I didn't always get the resolution that I desired out of the stories, but once I allowed myself to sit back, and enjoy the creativity and prose, I actually learned to love the book. I'm a huge fan of author's who have the ability to weave mysticism into an every-day thread and Russell does this beautifully. She has an uncanny ability to tackle a myriad of genres and come across as an expert. Her writing is beautiful. I feel the need to go back an ...more
Mar 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: short-stories

Anyone who questions whether Karen Russell deserves all the accolades she is getting need only read Vampires in the Lemon Grove – eight imaginative and devastating stories that often took my breath away.

Of the eight, three stand out: the eponymous title story which features a married vampire couple who eschew all the old myths about what vampires SHOULD be like and satiate their thirst at a lemonade stand in Italy. “If you have been thirsty for a long time, if you have been suffering, then the a
Apr 08, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: short-fiction
Not the best collection of short stories I've ever read, but Karen Russell chooses such imaginative and unusual subject matter that the stories are quickly engaging.

Only one story in particular stands out as exceptional though, "Reeling for the Empire." It's haunting and a bit sickening, but incredibly original and should be anthologized.

I expected a bit more out of this, but sadly a lot of them were forgettable. I would be interested in picking up one of her novels because she clearly has an v
Darth J
Feb 26, 2014 rated it liked it
All of the stories are told with the same pleasantly quirky and laid-back tone, yet it was only the titular tale that I found quite interesting. It took me a while to get through this book mostly because I would read a chapter in between other things, and frankly, some of them were pretty dull. It's not a bad collection of short stories by any means, just one that didn't fully capture my attention. ...more
Feb 26, 2013 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Bookish women and men alike, and my parents
Karen Russell: still best taken in short doses. If you read Swamplandia! amidst the tide of hype, whether it's from the Pulitzer and 20-under-40 and just generally "this is a young skilled writer", and thought "this is good but I can only take so many awe-inspiring prose runs and incredible similes, plus the ending was dogshit", like I did, then this is the book for you. Russell kills it, truly. She's got the relentless line-by-line dazzle of an MFA student who actually is worth the tuition but ...more
Wiebke (1book1review)
This collection of short stories was so well written I really lack words to describe it perfectly. It was never possible to just fly over the language as it was an essential part of the reading. The words on paper created a world that was a little more magical and fantastical than our own, but its characters were the more real for that. They had to overcome struggles and everyday problems and mostly all of them underwent some kind of transformation.
Needless to say I enjoyed some stories more tha
Robert Beveridge
Jan 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: the world.
Karen Russell, Vampires in the Lemon Grove (Knopf, 2013)

Full disclosure: this book was provided to me free of charge by Amazon Vine.

I have a confession to make. I've been known to tear up at the odd film now and again, and certain songs can get me sniffling. Okay, both of those things are understatements. And even TV shows can do it. You know the episode of The Vicar of Dibley where [SPOILER ALERT] Hugo and Alice get hitched, so David is the guy ending up sitting there listening to Geraldine's
Breadth. This 8-pack of 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-wi
Feb 04, 2013 rated it really liked it
This brief collection of imaginative short stories packs some serious emotional punches. Each story has some kind of a supernatural element, but like the best imaginative fiction, the fantasy elements really serve to enhance the universal human emotions that really form the backbones to each tale. For example, the title story is superficially about a pair of vampires learning that they can slake their thirsts on lemons from a particular grove in an Italian monastery, but it's much more about the ...more
Jun 27, 2013 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: fans of Swamplandia!
What I really admire about Russell is her originality and lack of interest in writing for anyone other than herself. These stories lack any of the typical plots we often find, and many break new ground. The stories that most stayed with me (and I'd give a 5 to), as with Swamplandia!, take you to a landscape you are unfamiliar with: the dust bowl in the Midwest, the lemon groves of Italy, the landscape of Afghanistan through the tattoo on a soldier's back. I love these kinds of settings and she i ...more
Laura Leaney
Jul 03, 2015 rated it liked it
Karen Russell can write, that's for sure, and her language is often richly poetic. There are eight stories in this collection, and all of them are other-worldly: vampires, seagulls who are not bound by time, women transformed into silkworms, tattoos that are alive. There is a lot to like here. What prevents me from rating it higher than three stars is that the stories are like mist - lacking in enough substance to make me satisfied. At the end of each, I felt deflated. They are too overly "craft ...more
Kim Lockhart
Jan 30, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is an uneven collection of stories ranging from eerily brilliant to downright silly. When she's at her best, Russell exposes our struggles with our own human failings. She covers themes of loneliness, madness, guilt-driven victim blaming, PTSD, and those uncontrolled places within us, which we fear the most. ...more
Jan 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I'm not sure if I can articulate why I liked this so much. I think more than anything and more than any recent books I've read, this one made me want to meet and interview the author. I think I could easily turn into a Belieberish-type (Did I just coin a term?) fan of Karen Russell. (I won't however, because I'm pushing 40 with a wife I adore and three kids. I'm too old for the trappings of fandom.)
But yeah, I would love to pick her brain. This is some of the most intelligent writing I've ever r
I definitely liked the first four stories in the collection the best. Like most collections of short fiction, there were some hits and some misses.
Nov 02, 2012 rated it really liked it
Very high 3, rounding to 4.

At times refreshing, at times surprising... but always unpredictable. Never have I read a short story collection by a single author with such diversity in genre, tone and subject matter. Supernatural, humorous, sci-fi, western, horror, historical... it's all in here. I didn't love every story, but as I read along, I knew the next story was going to be the polar opposite of what I just finished.

For better or for worse, enjoy the ride. You're bound to stumble across a f
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Karen Russell graduated from Columbia University's MFA program in 2006. Her stories have been featured in The Best American Short Stories, Conjunctions, Granta, The New Yorker, Oxford American, and Zoetrope. Her first book of short stories, St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves, was published in September 2006. In November 2009, she was named a National Book Foundation "5 Under 35" honoree. I ...more

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