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2 Hawthorne Literature- A to Z

Swamplandia!

by

Swamplandia! Cover

 

Staff Pick

Russell's debut novel is in a literary class of its own. Swamplandia! is a mystical, fascinating coming-of-age story told from the perspective of the charming 13-year-old Ava. A shabby tourist attraction in Florida and unpredictable family members flavor this highly imaginative novel.
Recommended by Kim S., Powells.com

I had never read a book about an alligator-wrestling theme park before, but, boy, did I ever love this one! Thirteen-year-old Ava is faced with the task of not only wrestling gators, but also of saving the theme park, her home, and her family. By turns hilarious, pensive, chilling, and redemptive, Swamplandia! starts out as a sort of swampy coming-of-age story, but, after wandering very far afield, ends up so much more. Truly wonderful.
Recommended by Dianah, Powells.com

Review-A-Day

"Writer Karen Russell is on record stating that, much as she loves reading realist fiction, she couldn't 'write a moving tale about a family of struggling car salesmen in Detroit,' even if 'somebody held a gun to my head.'

'But a family of alligator wrestlers in a mythic swamp? That,' she continued, 'I can do.'

Now she has, in Swamplandia!, a weird and wonderfully inventive first novel that also happens to be a moving, very real tale about a struggling family." Mike Fischer, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (Read the entire Milwaukee Journal Sentinel review)

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

From the celebrated twenty-nine-year-old author of the everywhere-heralded short-story collection St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves ("How I wish these were my own words, instead of the breakneck demon writer Karen Russell's....Run for your life. This girl is on fire!" — Los Angeles Times Book Review) comes a blazingly original debut novel that takes us back 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 #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 and the vast, inscrutable landscape of her own grief.

Against a backdrop of hauntingly fecund plant life animated by ancient lizards and lawless hungers, Karen Russell has written an utterly singular novel about a family's struggle to stay afloat in a world that is inexorably sinking. An arrestingly beautiful and inventive work from a vibrant new voice in fiction.

Review:

"Few novelists debut with as much hearty recommendation as Russell, a New Yorker 20-under-40 whose cunning first novel germinates a seed planted in her much-loved collection, St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves. We return to Swamplandia!, the once-thriving Florida tourist attraction where the Bigtree clan — Ava, Ossie, Kiwi, and the Chief — wrestles alligators. After the death of mother Hilola — the park's star alligator wrestler — Ava, the youngest Bigtree, takes her place in the spotlight while her sister, Ossie, elopes with a ghostly man named Louis Thanksgiving, and brother Kiwi winds up sweeping floors at Swamplandia!'s competition. Worst of all is the disappearance of the Chief, spurring Ava to embark upon a rescue mission that will take her from the Gulf of Mexico to the gates of hell, occasionally assisted by an unlikely extended family that includes the geriatric Grandpa Sawtooth, the Bird Man, and a tiny red alligator with the potential to save the park. Russell's willingness to lend flesh and blood to her fanciful, fantastical creations gives this spry novel a potent punch and announces an enthralling new beginning for a quickly evolving young author. (Feb.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright PWyxz LLC)

Review:

"Ravishing, elegiac, funny, and brilliantly inquisitive, Russell's archetypal swamp saga tells a mystical yet rooted tale of three innocents who come of age through trials of water, fire, and air." Booklist (starred review)

Review:

"Quirky, outlandish fiction: To say it's offbeat is to seriously underestimate its weirdness." Kirkus Reviews

About the Author

Karen Russell, a native of Miami, has been featured in The New Yorker's debut fiction issue. She is a graduate of the Columbia MFA program and is the 2005 recipient of the Transatlantic Review/Henfield Foundation Award and was chosen as one of the National Book Foundation's 5 Under 35 in 2009. Her fiction has recently appeared in Conjunctions, Granta, Zoetrope, and Oxford American. Twenty-eight years old, she lives in New York City.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 13 comments:

smellikelli, January 31, 2013 (view all comments by smellikelli)
Amazingly beautiful imagery! Strong yet weak characters. A true adventure. At time poignant and sweet and then brutal and uncomfortably creepy.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
(1 of 1 readers found this comment helpful)
eely, January 25, 2013 (view all comments by eely)
a bigger, hotter, steamier mess than the central character of this tome, the everglades. the language is mercilessly overwrought and overworked, it leaves your head spinning in unpleasant and unhelpful ways. its matriarchal focus is sexual politics at its worst and most insulting; i.e. mom dies, the family falls apart, dad is helpless, uncommunicative and absent; grandad is a victim of senility; son is a delusional mess stumbling whichever way random chance and misguided males steer him, and in the end mom's ghost saves the day. Any alleged hilarity in this, alluded to by other readers, only comes at the expense of hapless, lost souls and the pathetic excuse for a culture that florida has grown in the fetid expanses of empty wetness that await us all in our globally warmed future.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
(1 of 3 readers found this comment helpful)
Helen C. Bergerson, January 2, 2013 (view all comments by Helen C. Bergerson)
This book had wonderful characters, of which, the diversely painted Florida swamplands was a major one, along with ghosts and tales of the past. The story narrated by the youngest daughter is unexpected, magical at times, and never stops in inspiring wonder and emotion in the reader. It also reflects the changes in a unique family as well as the swamp. Everything becomes a prop for the coming of age stories of the children...and the changes brought about by trying to tame the everglades. The gators are not as terrifying as some of the characters and the return to civilization forced (and welcomed) by the narator and her siblings.. A unique style and beautiful writing. I want to know what happens to these young people as they grow up and pray they never lose their individuality.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
View all 13 comments

Product Details

ISBN:
9780307263995
Author:
Russell, Karen
Publisher:
Knopf Publishing Group
Author:
Karen Russell
Author:
Catmull, Katherine
Subject:
General
Subject:
General Fiction
Subject:
Literature-A to Z
Subject:
Animals - Birds
Copyright:
Edition Description:
B-Hardcover
Publication Date:
20110231
Binding:
HARDCOVER
Grade Level:
from 5
Language:
English
Pages:
384
Dimensions:
8.25 x 5.5 in 1 lb
Age Level:
from 10

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Related Subjects


Featured Titles » Bestsellers
Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z
Fiction and Poetry » Literature » Featured Titles
History and Social Science » American Studies » Popular Culture
Science and Mathematics » Nature Studies » Featured Titles

Swamplandia! Used Hardcover
0 stars - 0 reviews
$10.50 In Stock
Product details 384 pages Knopf - English 9780307263995 Reviews:
"Staff Pick" by ,

Russell's debut novel is in a literary class of its own. Swamplandia! is a mystical, fascinating coming-of-age story told from the perspective of the charming 13-year-old Ava. A shabby tourist attraction in Florida and unpredictable family members flavor this highly imaginative novel.

"Staff Pick" by ,

I had never read a book about an alligator-wrestling theme park before, but, boy, did I ever love this one! Thirteen-year-old Ava is faced with the task of not only wrestling gators, but also of saving the theme park, her home, and her family. By turns hilarious, pensive, chilling, and redemptive, Swamplandia! starts out as a sort of swampy coming-of-age story, but, after wandering very far afield, ends up so much more. Truly wonderful.

"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "Few novelists debut with as much hearty recommendation as Russell, a New Yorker 20-under-40 whose cunning first novel germinates a seed planted in her much-loved collection, St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves. We return to Swamplandia!, the once-thriving Florida tourist attraction where the Bigtree clan — Ava, Ossie, Kiwi, and the Chief — wrestles alligators. After the death of mother Hilola — the park's star alligator wrestler — Ava, the youngest Bigtree, takes her place in the spotlight while her sister, Ossie, elopes with a ghostly man named Louis Thanksgiving, and brother Kiwi winds up sweeping floors at Swamplandia!'s competition. Worst of all is the disappearance of the Chief, spurring Ava to embark upon a rescue mission that will take her from the Gulf of Mexico to the gates of hell, occasionally assisted by an unlikely extended family that includes the geriatric Grandpa Sawtooth, the Bird Man, and a tiny red alligator with the potential to save the park. Russell's willingness to lend flesh and blood to her fanciful, fantastical creations gives this spry novel a potent punch and announces an enthralling new beginning for a quickly evolving young author. (Feb.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright PWyxz LLC)
"Review A Day" by , "Writer Karen Russell is on record stating that, much as she loves reading realist fiction, she couldn't 'write a moving tale about a family of struggling car salesmen in Detroit,' even if 'somebody held a gun to my head.'

'But a family of alligator wrestlers in a mythic swamp? That,' she continued, 'I can do.'

Now she has, in Swamplandia!, a weird and wonderfully inventive first novel that also happens to be a moving, very real tale about a struggling family." (Read the entire Milwaukee Journal Sentinel review)
"Review" by , "Ravishing, elegiac, funny, and brilliantly inquisitive, Russell's archetypal swamp saga tells a mystical yet rooted tale of three innocents who come of age through trials of water, fire, and air."
"Review" by , "Quirky, outlandish fiction: To say it's offbeat is to seriously underestimate its weirdness."
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