I just finished reading Swamplandia! by Karen Russell. Russell, who was named to the New Yorker’s 20 under 40 list of excellent novelists under the age of 40, crafted a story for Swamplandia! in which a family—the father (aptly named “The Chief”), Mom Hilola, son Kiwi, and daughters Osceola and Ava (ages 17, 16, and 14 respectively)—living in the swamplands of Florida and operating an alligator theme park, complete with alligator wrestling (Hilola is the star of that show), goes through trials and tribulations that arise when Hilola passes away and their park is threatened by an amusement park in the nearest town. To add to those trials, Osceola gets weird, I mean really weird, calling herself a spiritist and telling Ava she is in love with a ghost. Then, she disappears, and Ava goes looking for her in the swamplands surrounding their house.
It’s a really fun book on one hand, yet a large part of it is very scary. Ava’s search for Osceola made me uncomfortable at times (as did another character and situation I won’t go into; I don’t want to give too much of the plot away for you). At its heart, the book is about the importance of love and family, and I highly recommend it. And it contains a lot of humor, much of it involving the way Kiwi and his teenage friends talk. I give it four out of five stars. I would have given it a full five stars, except there is a little too much technical description of the swamplands at times. During those times I wished she would dispense with this sort of description and move on with the plot. I eagerly await what Karen Russell’s next novel will be!
Until next time, happy reading!