by Karen Russell
2010 / hard-cover – 316 pages
  rating – 7

I really didn’t particularly like this book either –  that’s two in a row,  I think.   Swamplandia is simply kind   of silly although I did get involved about 1/2 way through.

Chief Bigtree and his children Kiwi, Ava and Osceola are left alone to run the South Florida alligator show when their mom, who was the allegator-wrestling star of the show, dies of cancer.   Without her the show has no draw, the family has no glue and they each go their own ways trying to make sense and save Swamplandia. For all their efforts,  Swamplandia goes deeper and deeper into debt.

Osceola, age about 12, goes a little mad and starts dating and then eloping with Louis Thanksgiving,  a ghost.  Kiwi, age 17,  decides he’ll go to the mainland and get his degrees and come back with piles of money.  And the Chief heads to the mainland on “business.”    And Ava joins up with a very strange and dangerous guy named Birdman to  find Osceola in the massive swamps.

The story is highly fantastical but Russell hangs on to that pretty well until the end.  It’s about the emptiness and madness of life without the center of their lives and family, their lives are disintegrating and they’re all looking for ways to save it or escape.


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