Thirteen-year-old Ava Bigtree has lived her entire life at Swamplandia!, her family’s island home and gator-wrestling theme park in the Florida Everglades. But when illness fells Ava’s mother, the park’s indomitable headliner, the family is plunged into chaos; her father withdraws, her sister falls in love with a spooky character known a...more
Perhaps Swamplandia! is a case of being careful what you wish for. Perhaps it was a back-handed slap against wish-fulfillment. Perhaps it should force me to reexamine deeply held prejudices, or at least preferences, which would make me grow as a reader and a person, ultimately making me more open-minded, forgiving, and calm.
Or maybe it’s just a bad book.
Let’s start with...more
getting into this story was a bit of a task. somewhere around page 89, however, i realized that i didn't want to put it down. russell is an excellent writer, despite the occasional split infinitive (personal pet peeve), and her story sparked some truly rich and engaging discussion one particularly fine april evening. this is a novel that lends itself to discussion and not of the "i liked it when..." variety. russell's approach is subtle; she is a master of "showing rather than telling,"...more
Darkness was pretty funny).
I loved "St Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves" and really,...more
In fact, it’s all these things. Yet above all else, Swamplandia! is a lavishly imagined and highly original coming-of...more
Update: After two weeks to reflect and think about my review I've down-graded it to four stars. This isn't to take away fr...more
Swamplandia! begs George Saunders references. Karen Russell shares Saunders fascination with the peculiar Americana of the tourist trap. The titular attraction here is the island home of the Bigtree Tribe, a family of eratz Indian alligator wrestlers. However, whereas the attractions become characters of Saunders' stories, Russell's characters are themselves the attractions of Swamplandia. Their faces appear on the billboards and promotional material and one of the attractions is a museum devote...more
The first, descriptive, half of the book is fabulous, but so much more could've been done with the second half. The plotline gets confusing. I foudn myself asking "WHERE IS...more
The premise of Swamplandia! -- a family of alligator wrestlers, running a struggling amusement park on a desolate island off the...more
This the story of a very odd, quasi-native american family who makes it their life work to create a side-of-the-road Swampland touring, gator wrestling, museum and fun park for people. Difficult to know how serious the patriarch, Chief Bigtree, is about the "establishment" that succors all of them. Included in th...more
I loved the idea of 'Swamplandia!' so much. The story is strange, the title is awesome, and the setting and characters are completely foreign to me ... alligators! swamps! ghosts! a bird man! Florida! lots of exclamation points used with wild abandon! ... Swamplandia! woo hoo, right?
Unfortunately, no. There is no "woo hoo" in this book at all. Russell is clearly a talented writer with a cutting sense of humor (of which she shows a few hints in the beginning), but this st...more
I have mixed feelings about this. It starts as a first person narrative by a young teenage girl, Ava, whose family has an alligator wrestling farm that is 'another roadside attraction', which is going into decline both because of the times and because of the death of the mother in the family, who was the big star in the show. There are some wonderful language elements - "a tiny fence" of birthday candles; the older sister's very blond hair described as "not weak chamomile but pure frost", and p...more
I thought the premise was fascinating, and some of the descriptions of the setting were spookily beautiful. What bothered me was the feeling I had that the author was completely detached from all of the characters -- that she was writing about people she didn't care about one way or the other. That feeling of complete detachment infused the writing...more
Interested to know what happens, but don't want to waste more than a minute or two? Read my synopsis:
(view spoiler)[A girl named Ava lives on an island in the swampy everglades with her dad, who calls himself the chief but isn't actually Native American at all, and her sister and brother. They own and live in a tourist trap called Swamplandia! which is basically an alligator wrestling show and a bunch of crap. The mom wa...more
315 pages. Alfred A. Knopf. $24.95
I have searched for writers, musicians and artists from Florida for the past year in an effort to uncover a native Florida culture. I am searching for the Florida that callous tourists, philandering golfers and deceitful politicians have concreted over.
My family heritage goes six generations back into that unforgiving country. We left Florida for Texas as I entered my teenage years. My memories fade.
What remain are impressions. The smell...more
I thought this book was wonderful; the writing sub...more
“Swampandia!” follows alligator-wrestling sisters Ava and Ossie afte...more
This book is full of beautiful writing. The setting is swampy islandy Florida. The descriptions are sticky and visceral. I complain that the narrator is 13 years old and her thoughts don't really sound very thirteeny, but I can easily suspend that disbelief.
The story is creepy and ghosty and pretty for most of the book. We never really learn if the ghostiness is real, but I wanted to believe it. I wanted to believe it so much that I pretty much loathe where the story goes in the end. While...more
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