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Swamplandia! by Karen Russell
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Swamplandia! (edition 2011)

by Karen Russell

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
2,1261603,080 (3.33)1 / 397
Member:katiekrug
Title:Swamplandia!
Authors:Karen Russell (Author)
Info:Knopf (2011), Edition: First Edition, Hardcover, 336 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:Fiction, contemporary American

Work details

Swamplandia! by Karen Russell

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    BookshelfMonstrosity: Replete with eccentric families and mythic overtones, these larger-than-life novels are exuberantly offbeat. Big Fish depicts a son's quest to know his dying (and lying!) father better, while Swamplandia! relates the struggle of two pre-teens to protect their family's alligator-wrestling theme park.… (more)
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Showing 1-5 of 160 (next | show all)
Well... that sucked. The terrible thing about that, though, is that it didn't totally suck. It was promising, and thus deeply disappointing. ( )
  jessicaofthebees | Aug 15, 2015 |
Swamplandia! is the story of a family who owns an alligator based theme park on a southern Florida island. After the mom dies, the theme park begins to lose business and each member of the family enters some sort of crisis mode. The father runs off to the mainland on “business,” the older sister runs off to elope with a ghost, the brother runs off to work for a rival amusement park that is some strange depiction of hell. Meanwhile, the younger sister and narrator of the book tries to bring her family back together by getting on a boat with a stranger to find the “Underworld” in the swamps, where she believes her sister has gone with her ghost husband. Needless to say, the book is weird. It took me a while to appreciate the weirdness, but I’m glad I stuck with it. The family, especially the narrator, turns out to be quite lovable, and the ways they show their love for each other, although somewhat odd, were quite touching. ( )
  klburnside | Aug 11, 2015 |
Well... that sucked. The terrible thing about that, though, is that it didn't totally suck. It was promising, and thus deeply disappointing. ( )
  valerietheblonde | Aug 5, 2015 |
Loved the Bigtree characters, but felt the plot was too draggy and about 100 pages too long. I hated the Bird Man character, he seemed so contrived. A bit of a chore to work my way through to the end. ( )
  mojomomma | Jul 15, 2015 |
At first I thought Russell had already covered all the territory of this book in her short story "Ava Wrestles the Alligators." The novel read, from the start, like a stretched-out exploration of the story's wacky, threatening landscape, goofy characters and ghostly happenings.

Then it got deeper. In Russell's imagination, as her characters edge toward the abyss, her writing becomes more lyrical and luminous. The Dredgeman's Revelation, which takes place on a 1930s barge, is one of the most beautiful chapters in the book despite its horror.

In later chapters I almost couldn't bear to keep reading, yet I was so desperate to find out what happened to the Bigtrees that I was cheating, skimming pages, hoping my fears wouldn't be realized. Russell's portrayal of the girls' loss of innocence is crushing, yet fully believable. The end of the book is a wounded, incomplete reconciliation, like an injured bird coming to rest.

I understand that the Pulitzer judges couldn't reach a majority vote and so decided not to give the prize last year, but Swamplandia! would have been worthy of the award. ( )
  amymerrick | Jun 3, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 160 (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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Epigraph
"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
Dedication
For my family
First words
Our mother performed in starlight.
Quotations
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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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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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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