SWAMPLANDIA! by Karen Russell

SWAMPLANDIA!

KIRKUS REVIEW

A debut novel from Russell (stories: St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves, 2006) about female alligator wrestlers, ghost boyfriends and a theme park called World of Darkness.

Ava Bigtree is experiencing some hard times in making it through her childhood. Her mother Hilola, a world-class alligator wrestler at the family tourist compound Swamplandia! (which Russell always writes with an exclamation point), died of cancer, so business has fallen off considerably. Perhaps even more significant, World of Darkness recently opened and started draining away customers from Swamplandia! Because the Bigtree family business was on an island off the coast of Florida, no one in the family had much experience with mainland life. Ava, who narrates roughly half the book, would like to follow in her mother’s alligator-wrestling footsteps, but her age prevents her from reviving the business. Her brother Kiwi joins the forces of evil, as it were, by taking a job at World of Darkness—one of its big draws is the Leviathan, a ride in which tourists slide down a seemingly saliva-soaked tongue of a giant whale—but also by getting the education he lacked on the island. Kiwi hopes to send money home but finds after meeting all the exploitative fees charged by his boss that he has almost nothing left. Ava’s sister Ossie (short for Osceola—she’s named after the Florida Indian tribe) starts paying close attention to the results of a Ouija board, finds an old dredge in the swamps near her home, and goes off with the ghost of Louis Thanksgiving, who had died in the swamps years before. Meanwhile, the patriarch of the Bigtree clan, known as the Chief, abandons the whole sorry business and finds a job at a mainland casino. The narrative becomes a quest of sorts as Ava, accompanied by a bizarre character called the Bird Man, poles through the swamps in a mythic attempt to locate her sister. Throughout this search, Russell evokes archetypal journeys through underworlds and across the Styx.

Quirky, outlandish fiction: To say it’s offbeat is to seriously underestimate its weirdness.

Pub Date: Feb. 4th, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-307-26399-5
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Knopf
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 2010




FINALISTS FOR FIRST ANDREW CARNEGIE MEDALS IN FICTION & NONFICTION:

Fiction THE FORGOTTEN WALTZ by Anne Enright
by Anne Enright
Fiction LOST MEMORY OF SKIN by Russell Banks
by Russell Banks
Fiction SWAMPLANDIA! by Karen Russell
by Karen Russell
Nonfiction CATHERINE THE GREAT by Robert K. Massie
by Robert K. Massie

MORE BY KAREN RUSSELL

FictionSLEEP DONATION by Karen Russell
by Karen Russell
FictionVAMPIRES IN THE LEMON GROVE by Karen Russell
by Karen Russell

SIMILAR BOOKS SUGGESTED BY OUR CRITICS:

IndieKEY WEST REVENGE by Lee Sweetapple
by Lee Sweetapple
FictionYESTERDAY'S SUN by Amanda Brooke
by Amanda Brooke
FictionTHE PATRON SAINT OF UGLY by Marie Manilla
by Marie Manilla