The short story is probably my least favorite literary form. Many collections seem more like sketchbooks: mildly interesting as exercises or experiments, but too insular, not deep enough to fall into. But after reading the first half of the title story as a free sample, I bought the collection because I *had* to find out what happened to the vampires in the lemon grove--and I found that this and the rest of the stories were layered and thoughtful, the worlds entirely possible to drown in.There's a grim comedy in many of these tales. Many of the situations are funny--presidents reincarnated as horses? obsessively tailgating an imagined athletic contest among artic species?--and the dense, descriptive prose sometimes turns wry or ironic. But Karen Russell deeply respects the loneliness and hunger that drives most of her characters, and permits their lives dignity and meaning even when their yearning borders on ridiculous. It's that tension between the ridiculous and the fatally serious--the vampires sucking hopelessly on lemons, the president-as-horse carefully wooing a sheep that may or may not be his wife, or anyone--that wrenches the gut in these stories.