Russell, Karen. Vampires in the Lemon Grove
Pulitzer-winning novelist Russell (for Swamplandia, 2011) returns with her second collection of short stories, after St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves, 2006. Her complex yet focused stories employ situations that are unusual or even outlandish to illuminate aspects of human lives and relationships. Such is the case in her title story, in which two aging vampires have taken up residence in a Tuscan lemon grove, finding the serenity of the place and the taste of the lemons the only thing that curbs their cravings. But it is obvious that their peace…and perhaps their marriage…are nearly over, as the narrator must come to terms with his own nature. Other stand-outs include “The Seagull Army Descends on Strong Beach, 1979,” a coming of age tale with a non-traditional twist, and “The New Veterans,” a small gem about a veteran of the Iraq War and the middle-aged masseuse drawn into his journey to recovery in a most unusual way.
Dark and strange, yet ultimately enlightening, Russell’s short stories are imaginative and utterly unique. Fans of Aimee Bender’s short stories will find much to enjoy here.