Swamplandia!

Swamplandia!

Book - 2011
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From the celebrated twenty-nine-year-old author of the everywhere-heralded short-story collection St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves ("How I wish these were my own words, instead of the breakneck demon writer Karen Russell's . . . Run for your life. This girl is on fire"-- Los Angeles Times Book Review ) comes a blazingly original debut novel that takes us back to the swamps of the Florida Everglades, and introduces us to Ava Bigtree, an unforgettable young heroine.

The Bigtree alligator-wrestling dynasty is in decline, and Swamplandia!, their island home and gator-wrestling theme park, formerly #1 in the region, is swiftly being encroached upon by a fearsome and sophisticated competitor called the World of Darkness. Ava's mother, the park's indomitable headliner, has just died; her sister, Ossie, has fallen in love with a spooky character known as the Dredgeman, who may or may not be an actual ghost; and her brilliant big brother, Kiwi, who dreams of becoming a scholar, has just defected to the World of Darkness in a last-ditch effort to keep their family business from going under. Ava's father, affectionately known as Chief Bigtree, is AWOL; and that leaves Ava, a resourceful but terrified thirteen, to manage ninety-eight gators and the vast, inscrutable landscape of her own grief.

Against a backdrop of hauntingly fecund plant life animated by ancient lizards and lawless hungers, Karen Russell has written an utterly singular novel about a family's struggle to stay afloat in a world that is inexorably sinking. An arrestingly beautiful and inventive work from a vibrant new voice in fiction.
Publisher: New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 2011.
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 9780307263995
0307263991
Branch Call Number: RUSSELL
Characteristics: 315 pages ; 25 cm.

Opinion

From Library Staff

"The Bigtree children struggle to protect their Florida Everglades alligator-wrestling theme park from a sophisticated competitor after losing their parents." -Novelist

Ava, the youngest member of the Bigtree family, attempts to keep a "down on its luck" gator wrestling theme park in the Florida Everglades alive after the death of her mother, a world renowned alligator wrestler. Centering on the lives of struggling family members as they come to term... Read More »


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m
mnack_0
Sep 22, 2019

The story of how a mother's untimely death tears apart a family - how each member deals with their grief - to eventually come back together again in a new (more traditional?) way. I loved the quirky and imaginative characters as well as the beautiful, haunting descriptions of the Everglades. I hope Ms. Russell continues to turn out more novels as interesting as this one.

e
EljayJohnson
Jul 26, 2019

Ugh, what dreck. Another case of a highly hyped book that I don't like and don't understand all of the good reviews. I'm sure I have before, but right now I can't remember reading a book quite so desperately trying for significance -- and failing utterly. There were so many comments in reviews about the "haunting prose," etc. and I thought it was at best barely competently written. And repetitive. And repetitive. It did the cardinal sin - it bored me to tears. Please please no more southern tales of eccentric but damaged people with colorful names.

k
kmobuckeye
Feb 05, 2019

Glad I finally read it. Loved all the old FL stuff, but meh on the actual story.

s
strangebasis
Nov 27, 2018

I wanted to like this book, I really did. Karen Russel is great at her short stories. Her characters are great and her descriptions are lovely and ideas are wonderful. The story weakens in the last half and seems to stray from some strong story arcs. The end is cheap and weak. Women and girls can experience growth in other ways than trauma.

CRRL_MegRaymond Nov 17, 2017

Swamplandia is a Florida alligator-wresttling tourist trap run by the Bigtree family. The tourists have stopped coming, and the family wrestles with their future

2
22METZ
May 08, 2017

Weird.

r
ReadsintheDark
Jul 26, 2016

I loved this book. The book follows the decline of a backwoods dysfunctional family of gator wrestlers. The book has a carnival feel with wonderful quirky characters and perfect pacing. As others have noted, the book begins as a study of the family and then turns more sinister as the family breaks apart. I found it stark and fascinating until the end. Would definitely recommend it

Chapel_Hill_KrystalB Feb 23, 2016

I loved this book... at first. The swampy Florida setting, the quirky characters, the writing- Karen Russell could teach a class on unusual yet completely logical similes alone. Unfortunately, it totally lost me, at first with Kiwi's chapters- reading about a kitschy, old amusement park is one thing, but I have no interest in reading about an icky, corporate one. I eventually gave up on ever liking Ava's chapters, too, even though I was into Ossie's bizarre ghost-love for a while there. I think my biggest critique is that there is just too much going on and none of it feels fully realized. I also take issue with a very serious scene towards the end simply being swept under the rug. With all of this being said, I still want to read St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves and Vampires in the Lemon Grove. Maybe I will have better luck with her short stories.

FW_librarian Jun 19, 2015

Opened the book and tried to read it about a half dozen times; if it wasn't my book club selection, I probably would have finished it. But, having read it, I'm glad I did finish it because I ended up being drawn into the oddly unique family dynamics which changed drastically after the death of the star of a gator-wrestling family park who happened to be the wife of a pretend-Indian chief and mother to 3 completely individual but, dependent siblings.

c
Chapel_Hill_KenMc
Dec 22, 2014

This is a very quirky novel, written generally as a humorous and ironic account of the decline of a Florida theme park that has seen better days. The plot flows into a very dark and disturbing place, creating an odd dissonance with the character of the novel, but I would still recommend this novel based on Russell's delightfully written characters.

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n
ndp21f
Jun 25, 2011

You're going to get the both of us killed . . . ," he pretended to repeat, but I knew this was different from what he'd said the first time. The first time, I was alone in the sentence.

n
ndp21f
Jun 25, 2011

She was a beautiful woman. You look just like her, Ava." I burned in the bow seat. I thought this was the kindest lie anybody had ever told me.

n
ndp21f
Jun 25, 2011

What are Ava and Ossie doing today? An easy thought to erase. Sometimes Kiwi wondered if he was also a genius at Zen Buddhism, he had become such an expert at annulling certain attachments.

n
ndp21f
Jun 25, 2011

I'd let her rest her leathery head against my shoulder while I touched the saffron plates of her neck. The Chief says it's a terrible sign when a monster gives you this kind of access.

n
ndp21f
Jun 25, 2011

We leased an expensive billboard on the interstate, just south of Cape Coral: COME SEE "SETH," FANGSOME SEA SERPENT AND ANCIENT LIZARD OF DEATH!!! We called all our alligators Seth. ("Tradition is important, kids," Chief Bigtree liked to say, "as promotional materials are expensive.")

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artemishi
Sep 15, 2013

artemishi thinks this title is suitable for 16 years and over

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