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Wednesday, August 15, 2012


Swamplandia!  by Karen Russell has been on my to-read list forever.  Well, for like, 2 years anyway.  It was a Pulitzer Nominee (and certainly deserved, in my opinion) and a recommended book by everyone who read it.

Ava Bigtree lives on an island in the swamps of Florida.  The Bigtree family has been running the Swamplandia! tourist attraction for generations (ok, just two generations).  Her mother Hilola was an alligator wrestler, her brother Kiwi despises the lack of intellect he believes his family has, and her sister Osceola communes with dead spirits.  A few months after her mother dies a new theme park opens on the mainland and Swamplandia! watches its livelihood disappear.  Suddenly Grandpa Sawtooth is put into a nursing home, the Chief (aka "Dad") leaves for the mainland on business, and both Kiwi and Osceola disappear in parts unknown.  Can Swamplandia! be saved, or will Ava lose everything she loves?

I had an absolute ball with this book.  Seriously--a total blast.  It gets deep and dark and emotional at times, and I still loved every second of it.  Ms. Russell has this imagination that will knock your socks off, and she truly understands the development of characters and story.  I ate this up like an apple pie--just one more slice, please, I kept saying.  I raced through this book just to get to the end--only to discover that I needed more.  It's worth more than one reading, that's for sure.

Swamplandia! is a character all its own, and it's a powerful one at that.  The Seths (every alligator in Swamplandia! is named Seth) are fascinating even though they have no words.  They had a character arc unto themselves.  There are also things that I can't tell you in this post because I can't give anything away.  (It's not my style.)  Just pick up this book.  You can check it out on your Kindle from your local library!  This book is just delightful and full of life and hurt and love and forgiveness.  It just is.

Get your copy. Kindle version on the left, hard copy on the right:

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