Karen Russell’s experiences as a young fiction writer haven’t exactly been typical: Before turning 30, she was a New Yorker “20 under 40,” a National Book Foundation “5 under 35” and a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.
Russell’s fiction isn’t exactly typical either. Her first two books, St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves and Swamplandia!, were hailed for masterfully walking the line between fantasy and reality. And her latest, the magnificent Vampires in the Lemon Grove, proves she has plenty more imagination to spare.
The premises of Russell’s short stories are supremely inventive and often totally bizarre: A pair of aging vampires try to quench their thirst without blood; coworkers in a silk factory find themselves slowly turning into silkworms; presidents Rutherford B. Hayes, James Garfield and Warren G. Harding are reincarnated as horses.
And while these fantastical tales charmed us, our favorite is easily the most conventional: “The Graveless Doll of Eric Mutis,” a haunting story about a bullied child who goes missing, narrated by one of his tormentors. Its inclusion gives the collection depth and maturity, further cementing Russell as a voice we’re eager to follow.