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Swamplandia!

Russell, Karen (Book - 2011 )
Average Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5.
Swamplandia!


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Twelve year old Ava must travel into the Underworld part of the smamp in order to save her family's dynasty of Bigtree alligator wresting. 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.
Authors: Russell, Karen, 1981-
Title: Swamplandia!
Publisher: New York :, Alfred A. Knopf,, 2011
Edition: 1st ed
Characteristics: 315 p. ;,25 cm
Summary: Twelve year old Ava must travel into the Underworld part of the smamp in order to save her family's dynasty of Bigtree alligator wresting. 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.
ISBN: 0307263991
9780307263995
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Report This Sep 15, 2013
  • artemishi rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

Swamplandia! is not exactly what I expected it to be. It's fiction, and not YA or cutesy at all (despite a 12-year-old narrator and a "Madeleine"-esque cover). It's a journey of self-discovery, or going from a self-assured cocoon world of childhood to a much more frightening, uncertain, and dark world of adulthood. It's got some lovely turns of phrase, and some maddening (and seriously pretentious) turns of phrase; some realistically childish acceptance and some hard-to-swallow family dynamics; it has satirical mocking of modern adolescent culture and a hell of a lot of swearing. At parts slow and plodding, at parts harrowing, it was essentially Literature (with the capital L). It's filled with the kind of adult themes that make some folk cringe, but I think ultimately it's worth the read. I definitely got a takeaway about being strong and moving forward, even if the past is always at your windowpane, painful and frightening. It also has some lovely things to say about death, mourning, and the idea of loved ones being near even after death. I'd recommend Swamplandia! to fans of post-modern literature, fictional stories that resemble Greek epics, tragedy with a dash of hope, and folks who understand that whole Florida Everglades area.

Report This Sep 15, 2013
  • Spricebook rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

very good. interesting to learn more about life in the Everglades. cinematic in tone - could easily be a movie. suspenseful. no too syrupy - in fact, very much a lesson in the harsh realities of life.

Report This May 09, 2013
  • TheSponge rated this: 0.5 stars out of 5.

Swamplandia!, Karen Russell's debut novel focuses on a 100-acre theme park in the Florida Everglades that is run by the alligator-wrestling Bigtree clan. As is the case with most entertainment parks, much of Swamplandia! and the Bigtree family is all smoke and mirrors. When the matriarch of the Bigtree family dies, the entire business venture literally falls apart. Not surprisingly, it's around this point in the book that everything else goes to hell in a handbasket as well. I found the writing to be very dark and heavy, the characters quirky and dysfunctional. The characters never really seemed to develop. The story never really took off and lacked cohesion. I was disappointed with the book after all of the glowing reviews and accolades it received in the mainstream media. As with Swamplandia! I guess it was all just smoke and mirrors, a media event. Piffle!

Report This Nov 02, 2012
  • Katieshw rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

This is one of those books that bibliophiles are supposed to love, but it's a bit hard to get into. The writing is unique and interesting and the characters are quirky. Not to mention, the setting is fantastic. But the story drags on and on. Finally you get to the climax, and it's a very dark one at that. I recommend it if you have the patience to get to the end.

Report This Oct 20, 2012
  • JimLoter rated this: 3.5 stars out of 5.

I don't like being wet. I don't like being hot. I don't like swarming insects. Since the characters in Swamplandia! spend a great deal of their time wet, hot, and/or surrounded by insects, that in itself would be enough to keep me uncomfortable. Add to that ... well, almost everything else about the crocodile-wrestling Bigtrees and you have just about the squirmiest, most unpleasant novel I can imagine. Despite all that, there was a definite magical quality woven throughout that kept me from throwing the book down and swatting at imaginary mosquitos. Swamplandia! depicts the epic collapse of a larger-than-life Florida show-biz family that has survived on a combination of hyperbolic mythology and disdain for normalcy. After the matriarch and star attraction dies of cancer, the Bigtree family's Swamplandia! theme park is further threatened by a well-funded but banal mainland attraction that siphons off their remaining guests. Facing foreclosure, papa Bigtree ventures to the mainland to conduct unspecified business and leaves his three children behind. Whatever tenuous connection with reality these three home-schooled, erudite-yet-somewhat-feral kids has is quickly severed. Ava's journey through the Florida swamps with the Bird Man (and her subsequent escape from him) was definitely dark and tense but also lyrical, like a Nick Cave song. Kiwi's parallel mainland adventure was less engaging; he often made me feel like smacking him. In the end, each of the Bigtree children is transformed, deflowered, and subsumed into the reality their father sought to escape for so long. Just as the Melaleuca trees invaded their beloved swamps, civilization finally gains a stranglehold on the Bigtrees.

Report This Aug 24, 2012
  • NATHANIEL ANTHONY ROMIG rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

It's such a good book.

Report This Jul 27, 2012
  • dstarr rated this: 1.5 stars out of 5.

I had a difficult time getting through this book. I read the whole book because it's one my book club chose. It seemed, to me, that the story was always just about ready to 'take off', but never really did. The characters were unsympathetic to me. I didn't care much what happened to them. The book lacked a cohesiveness throughout.

Report This Jul 19, 2012
  • katbehrend rated this: 3 stars out of 5.

I liked this book, despite its dark nature! Thought that the characters were all interesting and quirky and I enjoyed watching them develop as their family drama unfolded. It left me feeling heavy, but I think the story was compelling, at times mythical and dream-like.

Report This Jul 11, 2012
  • hollyheartsYA rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

How to even start to review this book? The characters are the gravity that pulls this story together, that gives it the roots it needs to take you on an incredible, unbelievable, fantastical and moving journey. The setting especially becomes its own character with the author deftly using the breadth of her vocabulary. At times Russell's colorful writing leaves you lost and you flounder to find a footing to pull you back up, but that is the beauty of the swamp I think. Oftentimes it is utterly fascinating to read about a life and people that you've no experience with, which can only help your understanding of the world we live in and all aspects of it. What this story really deals with though is grief and how each character deals with the repercussions of having the center of their life taken away. I'm definitely glad to have read this book and would recommend it heartily to anyone who likes strong characters, vibrant settings, and a liking for oddness.

Report This Jun 28, 2012
  • quagga rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

Dysfunctional family drama, creepy swamp scenes, a twisty plot, clever prose style and lots of humour - I loved it.

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Report This Sep 15, 2013
  • artemishi rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

artemishi thinks this title is suitable for 16 years and over

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Report This Jun 25, 2011
  • ndp21f rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

You're going to get the both of us killed . . . ," he pretended to repeat, but I knew this was different from what he'd said the first time. The first time, I was alone in the sentence.

Report This Jun 25, 2011
  • ndp21f rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

She was a beautiful woman. You look just like her, Ava." I burned in the bow seat. I thought this was the kindest lie anybody had ever told me.

Report This Jun 25, 2011
  • ndp21f rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

What are Ava and Ossie doing today? An easy thought to erase. Sometimes Kiwi wondered if he was also a genius at Zen Buddhism, he had become such an expert at annulling certain attachments.

Report This Jun 25, 2011
  • ndp21f rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

I'd let her rest her leathery head against my shoulder while I touched the saffron plates of her neck. The Chief says it's a terrible sign when a monster gives you this kind of access.

Report This Jun 25, 2011
  • ndp21f rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

We leased an expensive billboard on the interstate, just south of Cape Coral: COME SEE "SETH," FANGSOME SEA SERPENT AND ANCIENT LIZARD OF DEATH!!! We called all our alligators Seth. ("Tradition is important, kids," Chief Bigtree liked to say, "as promotional materials are expensive.")

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Report This Jun 28, 2012
  • quagga rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

Swamplandia! author Karen Russell on PBS

Interview with Karen Russell about her novel, Swamplandia!

Find it at SCCLD

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