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. Avas mother, the parks 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. Avas 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 familys struggle to stay afloat in a world that is inexorably sinking. An arrestingly beautiful and inventive work from a vibrant new voice in fiction.
The elements of Swamplandia!'s world do not sound promising. They sound, admittedly, rather random and outlandish, as cheesy as the Bigtrees' amusement park itself: alligators, a Ouija board, a Depression-era ghost, buzzards by the dozens, a "bird man" who whistles to lure the buzzards away, another amusement park modeled on hell. But if this sounds over the top to you, it doesn't to Ava Bigtree, and the wise earnestness with which she narrates her life will seduce you into listening. If I cited every worthwhile example of Russell’s prose, this review would be exactly as long as the book itself. Her gorgeous phrasing is at once so surprising and so right. (Reviewed by Amy Reading).
The New York Times - Janet Maslin
Ms. Russell knows how to use bizarre ingredients to absolutely irresistible effect…the book's a marvel…
The New York Times Book Review - Emma Donoghue
Vividly worded, exuberant in characterization, the novel is a wild ride: Russell has style in spades…If Russell's style is a North American take on magical realism, then her commitment to life's nitty-gritties anchors the magic; we are more inclined to suspend disbelief at the moments that verge on the paranormal because she has turned Swamplandia! into a credible world.
The Washington Post - Ron Charles
Russell has perfected a tone of deadpan wit and imperiled innocence that I find deeply endearing…you never know when a riptide of tragedy might pull away the humor of Swamplandia!
Quirky, outlandish fiction: To say it's offbeat is to seriously underestimate its weirdness.
Starred Review. Russell's willingness to lend flesh and blood to her fanciful, fantastical creations gives this spry novel a potent punch and announces an enthralling new beginning for a quickly evolving young author.
Starred Review. Russell’s archetypal swamp saga tells a mystical yet rooted tale of three innocents who come of age through trials of water, fire, and air.
Starred Review. A phantasmagorical tale of teens left on their own to battle their demons, mixed with a brief history of the Sunshine State, Russell's book will appeal to young adults as well as their folks.
Recent Reader Reviews
Rated of 5
by Beach Reader Too much swamp Aptly named book. Way too much swamp and not enough people. The characters are so slimline drawn that it is hard to connect with them. I was so glad to see the end of the book but sad that I didn't really feel touched by the saga.
Swamplandia! so successfully embeds itself in the reader's mind because of Karen Russell's thick and knowledgeable descriptions of The Ten Thousand Islands, which do not seem to figure into many other literary works.
The region is a chain of hundreds of mangrove islets, tall sawgrass marsh, and brackish water where salt and fresh water mix, located off the southwest coast of Florida, roughly between the cities of Naples and Flamingo. They comprise the Ten Thousand Island National Wildlife Refuge, and part of the Everglades National Park. They are home to manatees, loggerhead sea turtles, dolphins and alligators, in addition to over 189 species of birds and over 200 species of fish.
Because the mangroves are so dense and the canals between them so labyrinthine, humans have not successfully developed the Ten Thousand Islands into productive or habitable land, but they have...
Research shows that 90% of Americans value public libraries(Dec 11 2013) According to a survey by the Pew Research Center, about 90% of Americans aged 16 and older said that the closing of their local public library would have an...