(I believe the only things resembling spoilers I have put in this review are also in all the explanatory blurbs, and so are presumably not really spoi(I believe the only things resembling spoilers I have put in this review are also in all the explanatory blurbs, and so are presumably not really spoilers. I will also say, as a warning, I suppose . . . I had some emotional upheaval that was not the book's fault due to reading it, and I found it impossible to distance myself from that when writing this review, which is certainly even more subjective than most of mine are as a result.)
In thinking about this book, what to say about it, how to describe it, one of the only things that sticks in my mind is pretty much the only thing that made me finish reading it: my mother pressed it upon me, having not read it herself but heard about it and investigated it.
So I supposed I rather felt like I had to finish it, coupled with the fact that I could not simply abandon Ava and Kiwi and Osceola without finding out where Karen Russell left them.
In a way that made the entry into the story a little harder and a little easier for me - this was a book my mother wanted me to read and had spoken to me about before she became ill and later passed away. Following Ava's feelings on her own mother's time in the hospital and later death were a poignantly strange entry to her mindset that perhaps made it harder for me to countenance her later choices, after sinking into her so well early on.
There were moments in this book that were intriguing, and certainly the premise of the family that live at and run Swamplandia! is in itself intriguing - particularly for someone like me, perhaps. (I have worked at a zoo and a wildlife park; the idea of it being your family's home, life, legacy is fascinating.)
There were far more moments in this book that, all credit to Russell as an author, made me genuinely gut-wrenchingly disgusted or ill. I am not entirely sure if they were supposed to, some of them, but I definitely had those feelings. (One of the reasons I really wanted to put this book down.)
Reading this book, and the 'adventures' of the teenagers in it, left me feeling like I was halfway between a young adult, or juvenile, book - adventures that should end poorly, but never quite go as badly as they could - and an adult book - adventures that can end as badly as it is possible to go.
It felt almost as though Russell didn't know which the story was - which feeling also came into play, for me, in several other of the sub-plots throughout the novel.
I will probably never pick this book up again - a rare declaration for me, a chronic re-reader of almost everything - and at this point . . . despite Russell's few moments that touched me in the story, I'm not even sure I'm glad I picked it up to begin with.
This is not an uplifting book - I don't think that's much of a spoiler, though perhaps it is; if so, I apologise - that in itself doesn't bother me. Some of the most incredible books I've ever read are horrendously depressing.
Something about this story, however . . . I can't put my finger on it, but it is not a feeling that leaves me in a good place, mentally.
The novel was interesting, at the least, and the writing was not poor - the indecision I sensed is almost certainly a stylistic issue, and might not bother some readers - but it wasn't my cup of tea....more