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 as the ...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
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
In fact, it’s all these things. Yet above all else, Swamplandia! is a lavishly imagined and highly original coming-of ...more
Darkness was pretty funny).
I loved "St Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves" and really, ...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
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
I thought this book was wonderful; the writing sub ...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
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!" is a humorous dysfunctional family drama, a ghost story, a coming-of-age-story, and a commentary on the gradual destruction of our ecosystems in the name of "progress". It is both funny and deeply moving, at times heart-warming and other times disturbing, and it is beautifully written.
Russell's prose has ...more
I'm a little torn on this book. I've read some reviews that shred it, and I understand their points, but I think other strengths of the book red ...more
I entered this book with a cautious optimism. I wasn't sure that the young narrator would work for me - sometimes that sort of dumbs things down, and you never know what you're in for.
This is a tale that wanders off to places that are fascinating. I like the style, that meandering, with o ...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
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