Swamplandia!, Karen Russell
Hardcover, 316 pages
Published February 1st 2011 by Knopf
Source: I don’t even remember!
The Bigtree alligator wrestling dynasty is in decline — think Buddenbrooks set in the Florida Everglades — and Swamplandia!, their island home and gator-wrestling theme park, is swiftly being encroached upon by a sophisticated competitor known as the World of Darkness.
Ava, a resourceful but terrified twelve year old, must manage seventy gators and the vast, inscrutable landscape of her own grief. Her mother, Swamplandia!’s legendary headliner, has just died; her sister is having an affair with a ghost called the Dredgeman; her brother has secretly defected to the World of Darkness in a last-ditch effort to keep their sinking family afloat; and her father, Chief Bigtree, is AWOL. To save her family, Ava must journey on her own to a perilous part of the swamp called the Underworld, a harrowing odyssey from which she emerges a true heroine.
Another 2015 TBR Challenge book off my list! I’m sad that saying I finished is the most exciting thing I can say about Swamplandia! I thought I was sure to love this book – and I don’t even know why I was so sure. I’m not a swamp person, I’m not a reptile person – but who doesn’t love a good coming of age story? I tried Swamplandia! when it first came out but wasn’t in the mood, this time I made it my book club selection for the month so I’d be sure to get through (My apologies to anyone not at book club this month).
Ava Bigtree comes from a family of alligator wrestlers. Her goal in life is to become as accomplished a wrestler as her late mother and in doing so to save her family’s theme park -Swamplandia! Ava lives with her father Chief Bigtree, her brother Kiwi and her sister Osceola and all the “Seth’s” which is the family name for the gators. Clearly this book was always going to be a bit different, I just didn’t expect it to be quite so bizarre.
Was this book really magical realism? Was it just that I didn’t believe in the ghosts that Osceola was talking about that I missed the magic? Ava’s teenage brother Kiwi runs away to work at a competing theme park- the World of Darkness. The World of Darkness features such things as a blood red swimming pool and an entrance through the Hellmouth. WTF. Maybe that was why I couldn’t get into this book- who wants to swim in a blood red pool? Ewww.
I don’t want to say exactly what happened that finally totally turned me off the book, but I can say it was about page 268 and IT WAS JUST WRONG. I had convinced myself you weren’t going there Swamplandia! and you kind of crushed me. And then there was no resolution! The book just wrapped up too quickly for all the trudging through the swamp and through the freaking Hellmouth that you put me through. Maybe I’ll enjoy Karen Russell more in short stories? Her other books are still on my TBR!
Now what do I try to check off my list next?! I’ll take any suggestions!