Swamplandia! by Karen Russell Knopf, February 2011
Like any smart person, I do whatever Stephen King tells me to. I mean, do you want to say no to the person who invented such menacing characters as Pennywise the Clown and Jack Torrance, the dad from The Shining? I didn’t think so. But in all seriousness, Stephen King writes for Entertainment Weekly Magazine. In one of his columns he gave you his book picks of 2010, and when I read his review of Swamplandia! I knew that I had to get it as soon as it came out to the public. And as of this past Tuesday, it was mine.
Swamplandia! tells the story of the Bigtree Family who makes their living by running an alligator theme park with the thrilling name of Swamplandia! (don’t forget the exclamation point). Since theme parks make money off of tourists, it only makes sense that business goes way downhill with the creation of The World of Darkness theme park back on the mainland. Couple this with some family problems, and Ava and Ossie Bigtree (sisters) are left on the island to fend for themselves as the rest of the family tries to save their livelihood. From here things take a turn for the worse, leaving you not only worrying about Swamplandia!’s fate, but the lives of these two girls.
I really enjoyed Swaplandia! The plot was so unique, which I found very refreshing, that I was hooked from the first line. It also helps that Karen Russell has a way with words. Her prose strikes just the right amount of imagery without leaving you bored out of your mind with details. Lines flow so easily that it takes you no time to become engulfed in the Florida swamplands. You will fall in love with the characters, faults and all. I wanted to take Kiwi, Ava and Ossie home with me and maybe cook them dinner or take them roller skating; I felt like they were family. However, I must warn you, this book is not all happy times. If you are one of those readers that wants everything wrapped in a nice package with a pretty pink bow, this might not be the story for you. There are sweet moments and moments that will make you laugh, but in just as equal parts there are really sinister moments that will send a chill down your spin and make your heart pound. The story took a turn that I never imagined and at one point I was thinking, “No, no! Karen Russell don’t do this to me!” But somehow I made it through, with a few scratches upon my heart, and I think I’m better for it. I would definitely recommend you jumping in the alligator pit, just make sure you put on your bravest face.
Watch out for the “Seths” (alligators),