Swamplandia!

Kobo eBook available

read instantly on your Kobo or tablet.

buy the ebook now

Swamplandia!

by Karen Russell

Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group | February 1, 2011 | Hardcover

Not yet rated | write a review
From the celebrated twenty-nine-year-old author of the everywhere-heralded short-story collection St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves (“How I wish these were my own words, instead of the breakneck demon writer Karen Russell’s . . . Run for your life. This girl is on fire”—Los Angeles Times Book Review) comes a blazingly original debut novel that takes us back to the swamps of the Florida Everglades, and introduces us to Ava Bigtree, an unforgettable young heroine.

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.

Format: Hardcover

Dimensions: 336 pages, 9.53 × 6.59 × 1.3 in

Published: February 1, 2011

Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0307263991

ISBN - 13: 9780307263995

Found in: Fiction

save 37%

  • In stock online

$20.46  ea

Online Price

$31.00 List Price

or, Used from $5.04

eGift this item

Give this item in the form of an eGift Card.

+ what is this?

This item is eligible for FREE SHIPPING on orders over $25.
See details

Easy, FREE returns. See details

Item can only be shipped in Canada

Downloads instantly to your kobo or other ereading device. See details

All available formats:

Reviews

– More About This Product –

Swamplandia!

by Karen Russell

Format: Hardcover

Dimensions: 336 pages, 9.53 × 6.59 × 1.3 in

Published: February 1, 2011

Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0307263991

ISBN - 13: 9780307263995

About the Book

The Bigtree alligator wrestling dynasty is in decline, and Swamplandia!, its island home and gator-wrestling theme park, is swiftly being encroached upon by a competitor. To save her family, Ava must journey on her own to a perilous part of the swamp called the Underworld.

Read from the Book

Chapter One: The Beginning of the End Our mother performed in starlight. Whose innovation this was I never discovered. Probably it was Chief Bigtree’s idea, and it was a good one—to blank the follow spot and let a sharp moon cut across the sky, unchaperoned; to kill the microphone; to leave the stage lights’ tin eyelids scrolled and give the tourists in the stands a chance to enjoy the darkness of our island; to encourage the whole stadium to gulp air along with Swamplandia!’s star performer, the world-famous alligator wrestler Hilola Bigtree. Four times a week, our mother climbed the ladder above the Gator Pit in a green two-piece bathing suit and stood on the edge of the diving board, breathing. If it was windy, her long hair flew around her face, but the rest of her stayed motionless. Nights in the swamp were dark and star-lepered—our island was thirty-odd miles off the grid of mainland lights—and although your naked eye could easily find the ball of Venus and the sapphire hairs of the Pleiades, our mother’s body was just lines, a smudge against the palm trees. Somewhere directly below Hilola Bigtree, dozens of alligators pushed their icicle overbites and the awesome diamonds of their heads through over three hundred thousand gallons of filtered water. The deep end—the black cone where Mom dove—was twenty-seven feet; at its shallowest point, the water tapered to four inches of muck that lapped at coppery sand. A small s
read more read less

From the Publisher

From the celebrated twenty-nine-year-old author of the everywhere-heralded short-story collection St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves (“How I wish these were my own words, instead of the breakneck demon writer Karen Russell’s . . . Run for your life. This girl is on fire”—Los Angeles Times Book Review) comes a blazingly original debut novel that takes us back to the swamps of the Florida Everglades, and introduces us to Ava Bigtree, an unforgettable young heroine.

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.

About the Author

Karen Russell, a native of Miami, has been featured in The New Yorker’s debut fiction issue and on The New Yorker’s 20 Under 40 list, and was chosen as one of Granta’s Best Young American Novelists. In 2009, she received the 5 Under 35 award from the National Book Foundation. Three of her short stories have been selected for the Best American Short Stories volumes. She is currently writer-in-residence at Bard College.

Editorial Reviews

Praise for Karen Russell’s Swamplandia!   “Karen Russell is young and talented, and has been given just about every age-appropriate honor there is—Best Young American Novelists, 20 Under 40, 5 Under 35. With her debut novel, though, she’s leaving the kids’ table forever. The bewitching Swamplandia! is a tremendous achievement for anyone, period. . . . Effortless prose and [a] small, beautifully drawn cast of characters . . . as densely organic as the swamp in which it is set.” —Keith Staskiewicz, Entertainment Weekly, A–   “If no such thing as the Great Floridian Novel already existed, consider it done. Karen Russell, anointed by Granta and The New Yorker as one our most brilliant young writers, fulfills the promise of her fiercely original 2006 story collection [with] a novel of idiosyncratic and eloquent language; hyperreal, Technicolor settings; and larger-than-life characters who are nonetheless heartbreakingly vulnerable and keenly emotional. It’s a tour de force. . . . Near-hallucinatory in its intensity—not only in it’s dark, sad, enthralling plot, but in its descriptions of the swamp: gorgeous, precise, lush poetry. The book becomes sharply suspenseful as Russell’s fearless eye and voice go deep into the swamps of adolescence, of what it is to lose a mother, and of Florida itself.” —Kate Christensen, Elle   “Karen Russell is a fine purveyor of the unexpected,
read more read less

Bookclub Guide

US

1. Now that you’ve read the novel, go back and reread the epigraph. Why do you think Russell chose this quote?

2. Some of these characters first appeared in the story “Ava Wrestles the Alligator” in Russell’s collection, St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves. Have you read that story? How does it compare to the novel?

3. “‘Tradition is as important, kids,’ Chief Bigtree liked to say, ‘as promotional materials are expensive.’” (page 5) Did the Chief show this in his actions? Which of the Bigtree tribe members paid the most respect to tradition?

4. How did Chief’s myth-making affect his children? How might things have been different if he’d been more truthful?

5. On page 28, Chief introduces his theory of Carnival Darwinism, which he thought would save Swamplandia! How might it have been successful? Why wasn’t it?

6. Where else does the notion of evolution come into play?

7. Belief—in Carnival Darwinism, in ghosts—plays a large role in the novel. What prompts Ossie’s beliefs? Ava’s? Where is the turning point in their belief systems?

8. Why do you think Ossie sees Louis and other ghosts, but never Hilola?

9. What does Ava’s red alligator represent? And the melaleuca trees?

10. Why do you think Russell interrupted the novel for the story of the Dredgeman’s Revelation? What exactly is the “revelation”?

11. There are biblical references throughout the book, especially in the World of Darkness sections. Why does Russell include them?

12. How do Kiwi’s actions affect his family? What do we learn via his sojourn on the mainland?

13. On page 146, the Bird Man tells Ava, “Nobody can get to hell without assistance, kid.” How does this compare to the quote from Dante that opens the chapter? What does it tell us about his character?

14. The three Bigtree children are innocent for their ages. Which one matures the most over the course of the novel?

15. The Bird Man calls the ending of the Dredgeman’s Revelation “a vanishing point.” (page 176) What does he mean by that?

16. Both the Bird Man and Vijay act as guides to a Bigtree sibling. How does each approach his role?

17. When Ava said “I love you” to the Bird Man on page 196, what did you expect to happen as a result?

18. On page 198, Ava recites a credo: “I believe the Bird Man knows a passage to the underworld. I believe that I am brave enough to do this. I have faith that we are going to rescue Ossie.” Was she right about any of this?

19. Did the Bird Man believe in the underworld, or did he have an ulterior motive all along?

20. How does Kiwi’s use of language change during the novel? What does it reflect?

21. Like the Dredgeman, several of the Bigtrees have revelations. Whose is the most surprising?

22. What is the significance of the Mama Weeds passage? What do we learn from it?

23. Why doesn’t Ava ever tell anyone what the Bird Man did?

Item not added

This item is not available to order at this time.

See used copies from 00.00
  • My Gift List
  • My Wish List
  • Shopping Cart