‘Vampires in the Lemon Grove’ is a collection of eight stories of magical realism. As with all story collections, some work better than others. The title story was nice but didn’t do much for me; the one I liked least was the very odd- but not in a good, creepy way- ‘Dougbert Shackleton’s Rules for Antarctic Tailgating’ in which the spectator sport of watching whales eat krill is taken to the levels of American pro football fans. It was a funny idea, but it was too long by half.
The second best of the book, I feel, is ‘The Barn at the End of our Terms’, in which deceased American presidents find themselves reincarnated as horses. With Rutherford B. Hayes as the main protagonist, they wonder why, and how, and some of them set out to escape. It’s a sad but humorous tale. The very best, though, is the horrific ‘Reeling for the Empire’, in which young Japanese girls go to work at a silk factory, only to find themselves given an odd tea and trays of mulberry leaves and locked in a large room. They find themselves transformed into human silk machines, each day hooked up to reeling machines that take it out of their bodies- thankfully, the author does not go into great detail about his aspect! But though prisoners, they discover a way to regain the freedom they’d thought to find by moving to work in the factory. It’s a very satisfying story, and I came to love the protagonist.
All in all, it’s a worthwhile read, with more hits than misses.
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