by Karen Russell
Published by Knopf
Released February 2011
Checked out of Library for Book-Club
The Bigtree alligator-wrestling dynasty is in decline, and Swamplandia!, their island home and gator-wrestling theme park, formerly #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 and the vast, inscrutable landscape of her own grief.
Against a backdrop of hauntingly fecund plant life animated by ancient lizards and lawless hungers, Karen Russell has written an utterly singular novel about a family’s struggle to stay afloat in a world that is inexorably sinking. An arrestingly beautiful and inventive work from a vibrant new voice in fiction.
I'm not into book bashing, especially for new authors. But I simply feel the need to let people know that this book is number two on the worst books I've ever read. The basis of the story left me feeling off-center to begin with. This entire family falls apart after the mother's death. Dad, big brother, and big sister all leave a 13 year old girl all by herself on an island full of gators with sub-standard circumstances and no way to provide for herself. She then hooks up with the mystical "birdman" who says he's going to help her find her sister, and is later revealed to be nothing other than a dirty old man taking advantage of a young girl's circumstances.
I read this entire book because it was a book-club pick but had it not been I wouldn't have gotten through the second chapter.