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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.
Authors: Russell, Karen, 1981-
Title: Swamplandia!
Publisher: New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 2011
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.
Awards & Distinctions: Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction 2012, finalist
Local Note: SkyRiver
ISBN: 9780307263995
0307263991
9780307276681
0307276686
Branch Call Number: F RUS
Statement of Responsibility: Karen Russell
Subject Headings: Girls Fiction Mothers Death Fiction Motherless families Fiction Amusement parks Fiction Alligators Fiction Everglades (Fla.) Fiction Ten Thousand Islands (Fla.) Fiction
Genre/Form: Fantasy fiction
Topical Term: Girls
Mothers
Motherless families
Amusement parks
Alligators
LCCN: 2010036708
MARC Display»

Library Staff

List - Top 2012 Picks by: BiblioK Nov 15, 2012

"...breathing felt like drowning in a liquid you couldn't climb out of..."

"Swamplandia!" is filled with swoon-worthy sentences, eccentric characters, and a rivetingly imaginative story. Just in the first few pages, you know you are in the hands of an artist, "Nights in ... Read More »


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Jun 06, 2014
  • KateHillier rated this: 2 stars out of 5.

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
  • 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.

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.

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!

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.

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.

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

It's such a good book.

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.

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.

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.

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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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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.

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.

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.

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.

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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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 PPL

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