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Swamplandia! by Karen Russell


by Karen Russell

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1,8451403,735 (3.34)1 / 374
2011 (25) 2012 (23) 2013 (17) alligator wrestling (16) alligators (72) American (13) amusement parks (37) book club (11) coming of age (41) contemporary fiction (18) death (20) ebook (19) Everglades (42) family (59) fiction (277) Florida (139) ghosts (42) grief (12) Kindle (17) literary fiction (14) magical realism (28) novel (39) read (21) read in 2011 (16) read in 2012 (18) signed (15) swamp (36) theme parks (12) to-read (75) unread (11)

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Showing 1-5 of 140 (next | show all)
I hated this book. I didn't feel like it merits any of the attention it gets. It's disjointed, there's limited development for the characters or the plot, and the ending was disappointing. In theory I like this book; a family struggling past tragedy and spinning out of control only to regain its center and uncover family truth. Is everything happy? Absolutely not, but its something people go through to come out a little older, a little wiser, and a lot more clear eyed about the world.
However, the reality fell short. Nothing felt at all resolved, and while I would not presume that everything has to be wrapped up in a neat ending, I just felt like the ending was half-assed and sloppy. Also, how about never addressing the sexual assault or half a dozen other plot points? I don't care if you wrap everything up, but please address things you do mention. Don't just be like, "oh this important thing happened but we're never going to address it or talk about it or anything that would fulfill the reader/author contract" I just, I couldn't like this book, I felt cheated out of my time and out of a good story. ( )
  smg023 | Apr 18, 2014 |
It took me awhile to get into this story because I'd thought it'd be a fun story about a girl growing up on an alligator-themed amusement park -- not so much. But I did get to a point where I couldn't put it down. I wish the whole book had been about Ava though, rather than split up between her and Kiwi. And the ending felt very rushed on all counts. Russell's writing is beautiful though and I loved reading about the swampy setting. ( )
  KatieCarella | Apr 12, 2014 |
I loved the writing, the atmosphere, the settings, the characters.

The climax is a horror that is almost forgotten once it's over. Is it supposed to be a reference to myth? Maybe. That doesn't make it less horrible in a world the author at first lets us think is mythical but at last leads us to believe is real.

There are some loose ends, questions unanswered. ( )
  PetreaBurchard | Feb 9, 2014 |
So, in brief: I think the writing is great--really lovely, vivid and figurative. Appealingly weird setup, strong characters, and an enjoyably ambiguous undercurrent of magical realism.

However...holy crap, [event that happened near the end of the book]! I don't think it had to happen quite like that, and I also think that was the point at which Russell started to lose some control over the story. Because of that incident, I don't know if I could ever reread this book, but I am likely to read other works by the author. ( )
  thatotter | Feb 6, 2014 |
I'm going to set this book aside, not yet ready to say abandon it but more than likely will never go back to it. While listening to this audio version I fell asleep, attempted to find where I left off, listened for another hour, then realized I fell asleep for a reason. No I wasn't tired, I just plain found the story boring, not worth my effort and time. Would the book be better in print? Perhaps, but I listened to enough to convince me that I'd do better to go on to other books. ( )
  mlbelize | Jan 27, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 140 (next | show all)
Karen Russell, one of the New Yorker's 20 best writers under 40, is certainly very talented. She received wide acclaim for her first book, the story collection St Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves, which first introduced the Bigtree family in the story "Ava Wrestles the Alligator". This novel has already received great reviews in the US, and it's easy to see why. Many of her descriptions are quite dazzling. On the retirement boat, "The seniors got issued these pastel pajamas that made them look like Easter eggs in wheelchairs." In the swamp, "two black branches spooned out of the same wide trunk. They looked like mirror images, these branches, thin and papery and perfectly cupped, blue sky shining between them, and an egret sat on the scooped air like a pearl earring."

Over 300 pages, the density of the prose can become a bit exhausting, however, and Russell's ability to describe everything in minute and quirky detail is sometimes overwhelming.
Toward the end, the narrative takes an unexpected turn, finally unraveling its intricate balance between a child's stubborn imagination and the stark horrors of reality.
added by WeeklyAlibi | editWeekly Alibi, Sam Adams (Feb 24, 2011)

» Add other authors (4 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Karen Russellprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Gall, JohnCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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"I see nobody on the road," said Alice. "I only wish that I had such eyes," the King remarked in a fretful tone. "To be able to see Nobody! And at that distance too! Why it's as much as I can do to see real people, by this light!" --Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking-Glass
For my family
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Our mother performed in starlight.
The lake was planked with great gray and black bodies.  Hilola Bigtree had to hit the water with perfect precision, making incremental adjustments midair to avoid the gators.
The Chief blinked and blinked, as if he had momentarily blinded himself with his own silver lining.
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Book description
As their island home and alligator-wrestling theme park is threatened by a sophisticated competitor, twelve-year-old Ava struggles to cope with her mother's death while her sister, brother, and father all try to deal with their grief in their own unusual ways.
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This novel takes us 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 no. 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 as well as her own grief. Against a backdrop of hauntingly fecund plant life animated by ancient lizards and lawless hungers, the author has written a novel about a family's struggle to stay afloat in a world that is inexorably sinking.… (more)

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Average: (3.34)
0.5 10
1 23
1.5 4
2 79
2.5 25
3 162
3.5 60
4 183
4.5 33
5 63


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