Friday, August 9, 2013

Literary Friday: Vampires in the Lemon Grove



This week I read Vampires in the Lemon Grove by Karen Russell.  You may recall that she also wrote Swamplandia!, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Although well-written, Swamplandia! was a very difficult book for me to finish. You can read my review of Swamplandia! here.

Vampires in the Lemon Grove is a collection of (not so short) stories.  Her prose is lyrical and pretty....sometimes distractingly so.  I found myself sighing over her prose, distracting myself from the often macabre plots. There are eight stories in the anthology, and I liked seven of them.

"Vampires in the Lemon Grove" is about a vampire couple who travel the world searching for the cure for their unquenchable thirst:

"We spent our honeymoon hopping continents, hunting liquid chimeras: mint tea in Fez, coconut slurries in Oahu, jet-black coffee in Bogotá, jackal's milk in Dakar, Cherry Coke floats in rural Alabama, a thousand beverages purported to have magical quenching properties."

These vamps seem harmless, but as their quest for the perfect thirst quencher brings them to a lemon grove in Sorrento, provocation proves to be too much as nature overcomes will.

"Reeling for the Empire" is perhaps my favorite story in the collection.  Japanese girls are sold by their desperate family members to a silk mill, but as the ink dries on the contracts, the girls are offered a tea that causes a creepy mutation within them.

"The Seagull Army Descends on Strong Beach" was a difficult story for me to follow.  It seems that time-traveling seagulls are able to change people's fortunes through objects that have profound impact on events.  It's a coming of age story, but I'm not really clear how the protagonist grew or changed other than to take advantage of present opportunities.  This one depressed me a little.

"Proving Up" is a creeptastic combination of Laura Ingalls Wilder's On the Banks of Plumb Creek and 2007 movie The Messengers.  Apparently it wasn't quite enough to claim land during the Nebraska Land Rush;  one must also stay on the property for five years and install at least one glazed window in the homestead's sod home.  Perpetual droughts, insect plagues, and rumors of impending inspector visits are enough to drive anyone mad.  This gothic tale of American history was one of my favorites in the collection.

"The Barn at the End of Our Term" is a more lighthearted tale about the afterlife of former presidents.  This one bothered me on a personal level because Mr. Art @ Home is a direct descendent of the main protagonist.  

"Dougbert Shackleton's Rules for Antarctic Tailgating" is the shortest story in the collection, and in my honest opinion doesn't quite belong amongst the others.  I think Russell was attempting to criticize extreme fandom, but the hyperbolic, snarky humor falls flat.  Or maybe it's just that I'm one of the super fans she's mocking because I love tailgating and Crimson Tide football.  Roll Tide!  ;P

"The New Veterans" is about PTSD and how massage therapy can help our veterans reacclimate and cope with difficult memories.  This story is a must read, and I don't want to write any spoilers at all.  I bet it has won awards (or will win awards) like "Vampires in the Lemon Grove" and "Proving Up."

"The Graveless Doll of Eric Mutis" is another coming of age story, and it addresses one of the biggest issues our kids face today: bullying.  The four members of Camp Dark bully an epileptic loner literally into oblivion until his doppelgänger in the form of a scarecrow is tied to their tree in the park.  

I hope that you'll consider reading Vampires in the Lemon Grove.  Beware of a little adult language, but not in all of the stories.




Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill



9 comments:

  1. Those sound interesting. I didn't read Swamplandia! (well, yet), but I get distracted when the prose is too lyrical. However, the fact that she has a reference to Shackleton (and his fated Arctic journey), if even in the title, makes me happy. And the vampire one sounds interesting. :)
    Thanks!

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  2. I always love your book reviews! I'll link up with you tomorrow! Sweet hugs!

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  3. I love your book reviews...and I can pretty well say that I probably won't read Vampires in the Lemon Grove- lol xo Diana

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  4. Hmm, I'm thinking this might be one that I can miss, but as my book list is now about 3 million books long, I probably won't miss it. Thanks for sharing. xo Laura

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  5. Sounds like a very unique collection of stories! I'm especially intrigued by "Proving Up," and the one with the vampire couple, too. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

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  6. I'm linked with a little giveaway! Sweet hugs!

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  7. Ricki Jill, don't think I'll be reading this. I'm not fond of vampire stories. I did however pick up Blackbird House from the library. Hope to start it tonight. Thanks for the recommendation.

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  8. you are making me look forward to fall and short days sweets!

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  9. I'm scattered and seem to have ADD these days, maybe I could finish a short story. I so need to unplug and enjoy some reading time! Thanks for the review :)

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