Monday, February 14, 2011

Review: Swamplandia!

Russell, Karen. Swamplandia! New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2011.

This novel (which I read as part of the Amazon Vine program) has some wild changes of tone, from one of beautiful, detailed description of a swamp to funny comments and outright satire. A family that runs a alligator-wrestling attraction in a southern Florida swamp falls apart after the death of the mother, a certified star swimmer-wrestler. The narrative alternates between the first-person account of Ava, the youngest child, as she confronts the desertion first of her brother, then her father, and finally her sister (entranced by the ghosts she finds in the swamp) and the brother's satiric foray into a hellish (literally) theme park on the mainland that's half Doug Coupland and half George Saunders. Russell allows her voices to veer from the satiric and hilarious to the extremely detailed description of the flora, fauna and moods of the swamp, and an air of menace hangs over the proceedings (how will these children survive)? But it's a great story of children becoming adults and evolving to fit into a new world after years of isolation in Swamplandia!

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