Customer Reviews for

Swamplandia!

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

13 out of 19 people found this review helpful.

Readers who enjoy something cutting edge different will want Swamplandia!

Florida is known for some of the oddest tourist attractions (some might say traps) on the planet. The state is home to Swamplandia where Bigtree alligator-wrestling has gone on for ages. However, several recent setbacks place the family business in jeopardy as the onc...
Florida is known for some of the oddest tourist attractions (some might say traps) on the planet. The state is home to Swamplandia where Bigtree alligator-wrestling has gone on for ages. However, several recent setbacks place the family business in jeopardy as the once popular stop appears heading to bankrupt extinction.

There are talent issues as the star wrestler Hilia who brought in the masses to watch a female pin alligators recently died. The older daughter Ossie has fallen in love and elopes with a ghost of a man. Adding insult their brother Kiwi accepts a position as janitor at their more powerfully backed rival the World of Darkness. Finally the patriarch Chief Bigtree has vanished. Thus the youngest sibling thirteen years old Ava takes over her late mom's spot as the show must go on, but lacks her glamour and experience and besides has to herd just under a hundred gators and care for the park while controlling her grief. However, all changes when Ava believes she must rescue her father trapped in hell otherwise known as Gulf of Mexico; her allies are Grandpa Sawtooth, the Bird Man, and her BFF the midget alligator; at stake is her dad, the park and their island.

This is a wonderful odd fantasy with the key players fully substantial that they bring core realism to the capricious tale. Obviously this is Ava's saga but the support cast enhances her save her world story line. Readers who enjoy something cutting edge different will want Swamplandia! Tour guide Karen Russell escorting them around the island, the park, and the Gulf in this enchanting but strange thriller (see St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves anthology for more entertainingly refreshing)tales.

Harriet Klausner

posted by harstan on January 17, 2011

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Most Helpful Critical Review

9 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

Almost There, But Not Quite

I enjoyed Swamplandia! but it is not a book I would really recommend. It's merit is in it's characters. All are individually interesting and vibrant and even more so when thought of as a family. Russell goes into wonderful detail explaning the the rich and colorful Bigt...
I enjoyed Swamplandia! but it is not a book I would really recommend. It's merit is in it's characters. All are individually interesting and vibrant and even more so when thought of as a family. Russell goes into wonderful detail explaning the the rich and colorful Bigtree family and their Seths. It's the plot that's lacking! The first, descriptive, half of the book is fabulous, but so much more could've been done with the second half. The plotline gets confusing. I foudn myself asking "WHERE IS THIS BOOK GOING?" Not enough attention is paid to individual storylines and although the book felt too long, there needed to be more at the end. What happened to Ossie during her journey w/LT? What happened to the Birdman? What happened to Ava? What happened to Swamplandia!? While Russell touches upon all these questions, she doesn't fully answer them. You feel connected & interested to the characters and their sagas. You wonder about their fates, and then BOOM. THE END. This book needed more. That being said, I did LIKE it, but not enough to confidently recommend it to anyone.

posted by Maggie83 on February 10, 2011

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  • Posted April 21, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    A Fresh Voice

    Things are not going well in Swamplandia! Once a major tourist draw with hordes of visitors each day, the death of the show's main attraction has put a serious dent in the business. Even worse, the main attraction was also the mother of the Bigtree family that runs Swamplandia.

    Karen Russell's novel is the story of how this family comes to grip with the loss of their mother and the possible ending of the only life they have known; that of the Bigtree family of Swamplandia!. There are three children. Ossie, the oldest sister who is sixteen, has never been that involved with the business, being a fey girl who drifts through life. She becomes entranced with spiritualism and soon convinces herself that she can talk to the dead and that dead boys are perfect boyfriends. Kiwi, the oldest and only son, has always wanted a 'normal' life on the mainland, and leaves the Swamplandia! island, determined to make it on his own and then figure out how to save the park. Ava Bigtree is thirteen and the novel's protagonist. She loves the business and her only dream is to grow up and take over for her mother.

    Chief Bigtree, the father, is one of those optimistic people who is sure everything will work out even when he has no plan to make it happen. He leaves on a mysterious business trip shortly after Kiwi's departure, leaving the girls alone on the island. Ossie disappears into the swamp, chasing her ghostly love, and Ava soon goes into the swamp to rescue her. Will this family ever be reunited and made whole?

    Readers will love the fresh voice and writing style of Karen Russell. Ava's spirit is so big it jumps off the page, and the ability to experience life from her young perspective is intriguing. The characters are memorable, and the reader gets to experience the Florida swamps in all their murky, humid, bug-infested, dangerous appeal. This book is recommended for all readers, and especially those interested in coming of age stories and those of families finding their way to make a live together.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 6, 2012

    Magical realism

    It takes a while to really get into the main plot of the story and the vocabulary is a little dense...especially if you know nothing about alligators or swamps...but overall a really interesting book. Not a typical coming of age story.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 10, 2012

    Swamptastic and spooky. Swamptastic

    Truly unique and very enjoyable! Eerie and heartfelt. Would definitely recommend!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 4, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Alice in Wonderland ~ Ava in "Swamplandia"

    Like Alice in her Wonderland, Ava in Swampland has much to say about the goings-on in our world. Oh, what a riot of fun and fancy! And, yet, oh, what a dark and shadowy little novel at the same time. This dark little story is of a very odd, quasi-native american, gator wrestlin' family who makes it their life work to create a side-of-the-road gator festing, museum and theme park tourist trap. At first it's difficult to know how truly invested Chief Bigtree, the patriarch of the little family is in their Swamplandia world, but it is obvious that his commitment to himself runs deep. Included in the Swamplandia homestead and gator park are his two young daughters, an older teen son, and a wife who dies early of cancer. When the mother and primary "show" person of the theme park dies, their lives begin to unravel as the brutal realities of grief and loss of security overcome them. Soon, the Chief disappears and the children have to manage without him. Each and every one have a story to tell and a life-view that is both genius and pitiful. I can't remember when I've had more bittersweetness reading a book. I can't remember when a book has set me back and made me want to think about what just happened in the chapter I'd just read. And, I can't remember the last time recently I've met characters I've so thoroughly enjoyed from so many perspectives! Ava, the youngest of the daughters is a level-headed, precocious child who wants to take care of everyone, and yet, who struggles with her own escapism and fantasies. The swamp, the spirits surrounding the family and their life options, combined with the horrors and charms of the outside world and the dying of the natural, sacred swamp grounds provides the reader with an otherworldliness as we follow the characters along this tale. Ava worked as a guide for me. She was the anchor I needed to sort through the illusions vrs the realities of her world. There was a "scary houses" carnival, nightmarish feel at times to the story. The core love and sense of family these people share becomes iconic and deeply moving. There's survival and humanity so touching and terrible, so earthy and real that you'll be offended if anyone should break the spell and interrupt your reading. Karen Russell is an author with unique talents. She is a true creator. She has something real and true to say, and if one listens and can hear her, they will find a gold nugget in this book. Like "Alice in Wonderland," Ava in Swampland has much to say about the goings on in our world. There's much to say about our environment and how deadly it is to man and beast, flora and fauna, alike. It's an extraordinary trip to "Swamplandia," but you'll love it! Highly recommended Deborah/TheBookishDame

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 2, 2014

    Swamplandia is a interesting read! I did not think i would like

    Swamplandia is a interesting read!

    I did not think i would like this book because of it’s name. I thought it would be a little kids book. I quickly learned that it was quite the opposite. It had many twists and turns, with unexpected things happening all the time. By the first chapter i read i was hooked ,and could not put it down. The story is about alligator wrestlers, a girl who talks to the dead, gambling, and a odd family going through hard times. The book made me feel like i was part of the world the author created.
    I would recommend this book to anyone who likes good books that are a little strange. I think the book left me with some questions unanswered. I look forward to reading more of Karen Russell's books.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 9, 2013

    Otherworldly

    Be prepared to use the "look up" function a lot. She's a gifted writer but can go overboard with the complex language. A great and highly imaginative read. Highly recommend.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 23, 2012

    Really enjoyed the book. Excellent writing.

    Really enjoyed the book. Excellent writing.

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