Swamplandia! is a gator-wrestling theme park in Florida, run by the Bigtrees. Thirteen year old Ava has lived at Swamplandia! for her whole life. But when her mother (the main part of the show) dies of cancer, the Bigtree family is "plunged into chaos"; her father withdraws, her sister has a spooky boyfriend (who may or may not be a ghost) called the Dredgeman, and her brother Kiwi goes to work at a rival park, The World of Darkness. "As Ava sets out on a mission through the magical swamps to save them all, we are drawn into a lush and bravely imagined debut that takes us to the simmering edge of reality."
I loved this book. It's one of those books where the plot doesn't seem that interesting, but the author's writing style just pulls you in anyway. The New York Times Book Review's review of it sums it up excellently: "...“Swamplandia!,” a novel about alligator wrestlers, a balding brown bear named Judy Garland, a Bird Man specializing in buzzard removal, a pair of dueling Florida theme parks, rampaging melaleuca trees, a Ouija board and the dead but still flirtatious Louis Thanksgiving. Sound appealing? No, it does not. Unless Ms. Russell had you at “alligator wrestlers” — not likely — you may well recoil at every noxiously fanciful item on that list." And yet, it's still a wonderful book; the way that Russell weaves her words so carefully. Looming throughout the book is the absence of Ava's mother, the one who really held the family together.
This is Karen Russell's first novel, though she has a written a book of short stories. I would definitely recommend this book to everyone, even if the story-line doesn't sound appealing to you. You'll quickly get drawn in. In some ways Swamplandia! reminded me of Salvage the Bones, though it was better. Swamplandia! is a book on our summer reading lists, by the way (in case that's an extra incentive to read it.)
- if you like fanciful books
- if you are interested in Florida
- if you are interested in gator wrestling (not likely though)
|Outstanding Book That Will Stay On My Bookshelf For Rereading (jf I own it)!|