Book - 2011
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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.
Publisher: New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 2011.
Edition: 1st ed. --
ISBN: 9780307263995
Branch Call Number: FIC Russe 9254ul 1
FIC Russe 9254ag 1
FIC Russe 9254mv 1
FIC Russe 9254tc 1
Characteristics: 315 p.


From Library Staff

debwalker May 31, 2011

Karen Russell's debut novel centers on Swamplandia!, a fictional 100-acre theme park in Florida that is run by the alligator-wrestling Bigtree clan. As is the case with most good entertainment, much of Swamplandia! and the Bigtree family is all smoke and mirrors. The head of the family, a man cal... Read More »

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CRRL_MegRaymond Nov 17, 2017

Swamplandia is a Florida alligator-wresttling tourist trap run by the Bigtree family. The tourists have stopped coming, and the family wrestles with their future

May 08, 2017


Jul 26, 2016

I loved this book. The book follows the decline of a backwoods dysfunctional family of gator wrestlers. The book has a carnival feel with wonderful quirky characters and perfect pacing. As others have noted, the book begins as a study of the family and then turns more sinister as the family breaks apart. I found it stark and fascinating until the end. Would definitely recommend it

Chapel_Hill_KrystalB Feb 23, 2016

I loved this book... at first. The swampy Florida setting, the quirky characters, the writing- Karen Russell could teach a class on unusual yet completely logical similes alone. Unfortunately, it totally lost me, at first with Kiwi's chapters- reading about a kitschy, old amusement park is one thing, but I have no interest in reading about an icky, corporate one. I eventually gave up on ever liking Ava's chapters, too, even though I was into Ossie's bizarre ghost-love for a while there. I think my biggest critique is that there is just too much going on and none of it feels fully realized. I also take issue with a very serious scene towards the end simply being swept under the rug. With all of this being said, I still want to read St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves and Vampires in the Lemon Grove. Maybe I will have better luck with her short stories.

FederalWayEdna Jun 19, 2015

Opened the book and tried to read it about a half dozen times; if it wasn't my book club selection, I probably would have finished it. But, having read it, I'm glad I did finish it because I ended up being drawn into the oddly unique family dynamics which changed drastically after the death of the star of a gator-wrestling family park who happened to be the wife of a pretend-Indian chief and mother to 3 completely individual but, dependent siblings.

Chapel_Hill_KenMc Dec 22, 2014

This is a very quirky novel, written generally as a humorous and ironic account of the decline of a Florida theme park that has seen better days. The plot flows into a very dark and disturbing place, creating an odd dissonance with the character of the novel, but I would still recommend this novel based on Russell's delightfully written characters.

KateHillier Jun 06, 2014

Honestly it started out interesting. Very Royal Tenenbaums-ish with the oddball family working at a theme park in the Florida Everglades. The patriarch vanishes on a unspecified business trip, the son runs away to make money, and the two daughters end up with their own problems. The eldest starts dating a ghost and the youngest, at thirteen, sort of ends up running the place. Then nothing happens for awhile until out of nowhere something really shocking and upsetting, with no real consequences or address of any kind, happens. Then still nothing happens.

There are parts that are very well written but the book just goes on too long. And there just seems to be no consequences or sense in much of what takes place either.

Sep 15, 2013

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.

Spricebook Sep 15, 2013

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.

May 09, 2013

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!

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Jun 25, 2011

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.

Jun 25, 2011

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.

Jun 25, 2011

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.

Jun 25, 2011

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.

Jun 25, 2011

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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Sep 15, 2013

artemishi thinks this title is suitable for 16 years and over


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