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Russell, Karen, 1981- Book - 2011 Fiction 2 On Shelf No requests on this item Community Rating: 3.7 out of 5

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Call Number: Fiction
On Shelf At: Downtown Library

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Downtown 2nd Floor
4-week checkout
Fiction 4-week checkout On Shelf
Downtown 2nd Floor
4-week checkout
Fiction 4-week checkout On Shelf

Twelve year old Ava must travel into the Underworld part of the swamp in order to save her family's dynasty of Bigtree alligator wresting. This novel takes us 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 no. 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 as well as her own grief. Against a backdrop of hauntingly fecund plant life animated by ancient lizards and lawless hungers, the author has written a novel about a family's struggle to stay afloat in a world that is inexorably sinking.


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Great Imagery submitted by Calista on March 22, 2011, 3:46pm Beautiful imagery. I thought the ending was a let down and just didn't go anywhere. The end was sorta limp. I still enjoyed the book.

Florida Gothic submitted by osbornk on July 20, 2011, 12:16pm Karen Russell conveys a vivid sense of place and personality despite going overboard with metaphors. Sometimes the writing drew me out of the narrative. And this is a maddening book to read as a parent. Although the children have true fortitude, they have been ill-prepared for life beyond their island.

decent submitted by KOH on November 15, 2012, 9:17am Going into this, all I knew was that it was a Pulitzer contender that (obviously) received wonderful reviews. I wasn't prepared for how dark it was, and I don't mind that in general- But I have to agree with another reviewer here who said the ending was something of a disappointment. A great story doesn't always have to tie up everything perfectly in a nice little bow, but this just didn't quite do the characters justice, considering how strong they are depicted throughout the entire book.

But I will say that this is such an original story. You really sympathize with these characters, and you find yourself staying up way to late to read just one more chapter... and then another three.

Disappointing submitted by Susan4Pax -prev. sueij- on August 14, 2013, 7:50pm Nope, I did not enjoy this book. The events that occur in the story were interesting enough, I suppose, but the protagonist is a young girl who is buffeted by forces outside her control for the entirety of the novel. There are almost NO decisions available to her, so what is the point of reading the story? (There is, eventually, a single decision that is hers to make and follow through on, and it turns out badly. I'm not sure what lesson we are supposed to take from that.)

One third to one half of the way in, the story splits off and we follow the girl's brother as he makes some of his own decisions. This is the only part of the book that actually held any interest to me, as him MAKING DECISIONS (and perhaps especially in the wildly unique-to-him environment of the "normal world") gave me something to pay attention to. But it wasn't enough to redeem the book.

I was really glad to be done with this.

Disappointing submitted by mtebo on June 25, 2022, 11:13am I completely agree with the most recent review! I read this for a class and was looking forward to it, but it was a let down. This poor girl goes through so much. There's one particular part that was horrifying and I really wish wasn't included.

Good sentences, not as good plot submitted by redwood on July 20, 2022, 8:27am I frequently underlined beautiful sentences and phrases in this novel. Russell’s descriptions both of the central characters’ Everglades environment and the depth of their emotions were vivid and arresting.

Swamplandia! follows the children of the Bigtree family, operators of the alligator-themed park Swamplandia! in the wake of their alligator wrestler mother’s death from cancer. Some of the details are hilarious (all the alligators are named Seth), others uncomfortable (the father calls himself “Chief” and the family frequently plays Indian). The novel worked a bit more for me on the level of the sentence than of the plot. It was most successful when it focused on grief, less successful, I felt, when it was madcap adventure. I don’t think the novel appropriately accounts for the most terrible thing that happens to 13-year-old Ava Bigtree (and did that thing even need to happen?), and I wished we could hear from the perspective of her sister Ossie, who becomes engaged to a ghost—who seemed to be the most interesting of the siblings, yet the only one without chapters from her POV.

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New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 2011.
Year Published: 2011
Description: 315 p. ; 25 cm.
Language: English
Format: Book


Girls -- Fiction.
Mothers -- Death -- Fiction.
Motherless families -- Fiction.
Amusement parks -- Fiction.
Alligators -- Fiction.
Everglades (Fla.) -- Fiction.
Ten Thousand Islands (Fla.) -- Fiction.
Fantasy fiction.