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 January 17, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    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 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

    13 out of 19 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 4, 2011

    Couldn't put it down!

    It has been a vey long time since a book has intoxicated me as much as this one. Karen Russel's brilliant prose breathes to life unforgettable characters and reclaims the beauty of a forgotten geography. She gives the well worn theme of childhood lost a new perspective and keeps you turning pages until you are sorry there are none left.

    7 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 3, 2011

    Brilliant

    Taken in by the cover, I was intrigued enough to read a few lines. I was hooked from the beginning. Russel's prose are of such moving quality that I found myself riveted. Innocent and dark, insightful and all-too-relatable; I ached for Russel's characters. A truly brilliant new author. A must read for those who wander from the beaten path and enjoy the extraordinary.

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 18, 2011

    The price has dropped! So stop giving an amazing book bad reviews.

    I don't know what kind of society people think we live in but expecting everything to be cheap/free is absurd as well as counter productive. If people want free books take a few minutes out of your busy days of whining to learn how to illegally download them, in the mean time I will spend every penny on a book as artistically crafted as Swamplandia and hope some of it trickles down to the author.

    6 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 4, 2011

    A New Favorite!

    From the moment I read the synopsis of Swamplandia by Karen Russell, I knew I had to read it. Once I began reading, I could not help but think that the audience might include fans of Geek Love. I was not surprised to see that in her acknowledgments, Russell lists Geek Love author Katherine Dunn as an influence. No surprise, Geek Love is a favorite of mine. Swamplandia! is not a light-hearted tale. There are definitely things wrong in the Bigtree family after matriarch Hilola Bigtree's death. Hilola, the alligator wrestler, is the main attraction for Swamplandia! The family is unable to continue enticing tourists to their swampy island without Hilola. I don't want to spoil anything for potential readers, but very worrisome events occur after the tourists stop arriving. The book seemed somewhat slow-going at first, but the descriptions were vivid enough to keep me reading. It was all worth it. Swamplandia! is a new favorite for me. Many readers seem to have arrived at reading this book after enjoying Russell's St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves. I am in the opposite camp. After reading Swamplandia!, I cannot wait to get my hands on her short story collection.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 28, 2012

    Oh Swamplandia!

    The fact that Karen Russel managed to produce such a honed gem of a book in her 20s (!) Is nearly uncanny. This book had so many shining facets to keep this reader in it's thrall- Eccentric outsiders,.characters so well-drawn that empathy is effortless, family ties, love, grief, wry humor, southern gothic ghost stories, history & science, heady atmospheres, teen angst & hardwon wisdom, trauma, adventure...and all shot through with bang-on metaphors, beautiful similies, descriptive vistas of aching beauty.

    Yes indeed, an awesome book and one of the finest credits to Florida lit. since Marjorie Keenan Rawlins' 'Cross Creek'.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 18, 2012

    gothic metaphors. in touch with current culture. ironic. told so

    gothic metaphors. in touch with current culture. ironic. told so carefully, always almost funny then not. pain expressed with out excess juxtaposed to another kind excess told through seriously innocent eyes. feminine child perspective perfectly expressed. an engaging story, never read anything similar. kids wanting to save crumbling family. and they do. probably helps i was a disneyland kid:) wanting to save my family. IMO, this is art. best book i have read in years.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 28, 2012

    Youth appeal

    Given the harry potter and vampire success enjoyed recently, I would expect to see this book wildly popular.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 13, 2012

    Swamplandia

    I loved this book. It has everything. Exciting but weird story.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 18, 2012

    Bought 1 copy, read it, lent it and bought another copy to keep

    Karen Russell is a brilliant writer. Original and not cliched in the least. Every good book has to be informative, have a great narrative, strike notes of the human condition to identify with and be entertaining and original. Ms Russell seems much more knowledgable than her 29 years.
    Her descriptions and turn of phrase are more than I've ever enjoyed in a book.
    I would not be surprised to see it in the top 5 of the NYT bestseller list before long. It is a very satisfying book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 2, 2011

    Loved it!

    This is the first book I've read for leisure in awhile since I recently graduated and now have time. I loved Russell's use of imagery in her writing. I found myself becoming very attached to each character as the story went on. The familiar bittersweet feeling between satisfaction and disappointment in it being over came over me as it ended. Would recommend for someone who needs to get away for awhile. A simple, yet rich read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 28, 2011

    A fantastic trip!

    I bought this book as soon as I learned one of the characters talked to dead people. Though, I admit, it took me about 3-4 chapters to settle into the story and from there I never put it down. Those initial curious chapters served their purpose in conditioning me for different avenues the characters would take. I was emotionally invested in the characters and found myself crying and laughing in equal measure. One of the most original stories I've ever read...and one of the most enthralling. I'd read another tale penned by her.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 16, 2014

    Loved this book! Very different read, entertaining, engaging!

    I could not put this book down. It is so different from anything I've ever read. It has easy to understand dialogue that is also well written. The setting is unusual for sure taking place in the thick of the alligator swamps . The subject matter has a new twist on old themes. The main character is a young girl who has a will to live though very difficult hardships. This is a good book for teens especially who are undergoing hard times. The heroine is sure to encourage young women to strive for a better life no matter what direction they need to take to do so. I highly recommend this book for anyone who needs to be reminded that life may be a struggle, but perseverance may lead to a better life!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 25, 2013

    Great

    This was a Nook purchase

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 6, 2013

    The best book I've read in awhile. It's shocking and lovely, and

    The best book I've read in awhile. It's shocking and lovely, and absolutely warps your view of the world. It's pages are filled with both majesty and tortured words. A must read!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 16, 2013

    Yay

    Is this setting based on one of the Gator Boy's home bases, Everglades Holiday Park in Florida?

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 20, 2011

    Bizarre and Beautiful

    This book is amazingly weird and heartwrenching. I couodnt stop reading it.

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  • Posted May 27, 2011

    Great Read!!!!

    You wander through this dark and amazing place that the author so beautifully creates like you would in a dream. I am just an everyday guy who just enjoys reading. And this is a great book.

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  • Posted May 8, 2011

    Highly Recommended-you must check it out!!

    The synopsis really intrigued me but the book was even better! It's a fantastic book and a must read for everyone! Karen Russell has an amazing writing style not only in this book but in he ohter book St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves. Check them both out, there is no way you wouldn't love them!

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  • Posted February 18, 2011

    This is an amazing book for teens and older adults

    A man by the name of Chief Bigtree creats a play about the world famous alligator wrestler Hilola Bigtree. The family lives thirty-odd miles away from the mainland lights. The mother works at a stadium diving with the gators. There is a quarter mile of limestone rock for the thirty alligators to crawl on and sun themselves. I think that Karen Russell did an amazing job with this book. This is the bes book that I have ever read in my life. The book focuses on alligators and a stadium named SWAMPLANDIA. I have always liked alligators because they are like a tank with teeth and a tail. In conclusion to this book "SWAMPLANDIA" it is a great book for teens and people who can read intermediate books.

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