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Swamplandia! by Karen Russell
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Swamplandia! (edition 2012)

by Karen Russell

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1,9341433,533 (3.34)1 / 384
Member:ngoldfdf
Title:Swamplandia!
Authors:Karen Russell
Info:Vintage (2012), Paperback, 336 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:None

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Swamplandia! by Karen Russell

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Plot:
The Bigtree family of alligator wrestlers is slowly falling apart: Grandfather Sawtooth had to be moved to a nursing home, mother Hilola recently died and The Chief doesn’t really know what to do with his children. Or how to keep the alligator wrestling business afloat. That leaves the children pretty much to their own devices. Kiwi decides that he is better off on the mainland than in the swamp, where he might be able to get a formalized education. Osceola starts conversing with ghosts and withdraws more and more into their world. And the youngest, Ava, dreams of saving the business by becoming the greatest alligator wrestler alive. But how is a thirteen year old supposed to save practically an entire ecosystem?

Swamplandia! is not an easy book, even if it appears so at first. Much like its protagonists, it loses its innocence and light-heartedness as it progresses. It’s worth it to go on that journey with them.

Read more on my blog: http://kalafudra.com/2014/06/04/swamplandia-karen-russell/ ( )
  kalafudra | Jul 18, 2014 |
I will admit, Swamplandia! had a strong opening that set the stage for what could have been a beautiful novel, but it went downhill from there.

The basic setup is that there is this family that lives on there own island in Florida that is also a alligator theme park. There is the mom, the dad (chief), two sisters and a brother. Well, mom is dead in a few pages and soon we realize that Swamplandia! is not what it seems to be.

There were some highpoints in this book, though. Lots of humor and descriptive, beautiful writing. The plot just seemed to lag to me, very slow and boring.

Swamplandia! is not a bad book, well worth the read for some of the writing, but not if you are expecting much of anything to happen. ( )
  Alexander19 | Jun 23, 2014 |
A very good book, well worth reading, but somehow falls short of astounding or perfection. It tells the story of the (self-named) Bigtree family who live in a Florida swamp/island and operate Swamplandia!, a decaying alligator wrestling attraction. The story opens with "The Beginning of the End" as a slick new attraction opens on the mainland, threatening Swamplandia! The father goes off to fix the situation, his eldest son runs off to work at the new attraction, and the youngest daughter goes on a journey to the "underworld" to find her sister who she thinks has been kidnapped by a ghost.

An aura of magic lies over the entire book but at times the stark, depressing reality that these dreams and delusions float over is exposed. In the end, it is an unconventional family story that deals in only partial and ambiguous triumphs of reality over fantasy. ( )
  nosajeel | Jun 21, 2014 |
absolutely worth reading even if you don't think a book about alligator wrestlers is for you. ( )
  outlandishlit | Jun 9, 2014 |
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. ( )
1 vote smg023 | Apr 18, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 143 (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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