ElLCoolJ’s #CBR4 review #3: Swamplandia by Karen Russell
So it has been many many many months since I wrote a review, but I have been busy reading. I kept track of the books that I read and am not at a place where I can sit down and tell you what I thought about them. (Ah the joys of being a teacher with my summers off!)
I’ll start with Swamplandia, a romp through the supernatural, or is it the real world. The story follows the three children of Chief Bigtree, the proprietor of Swamplandia, a has-been alligator wrestling tourist. attraction. Ava, the youngest is the obvious protagonist. She has taken it upon herself to replace her deceased mother as the headliner of the show. Ava fancies herself as the future of Swamplandia, and practices her routines in the near abandoned park. Ossie, the middle sister, plunges herself in the world of the occult and dates ghosts. Kiwi, the eldest brother, leaves to work at “The World Of Darkness”, a rival theme park based on Hell. The father, Chief Bigtree, splits to the mainland in search of something to save the park, but has no real plan.
The book fluctuates between the real world and delving into the fantasy world. At times it is hard to tell what is real and what is fantastical, but that is the joy of the book, as the characters skirt the fine line of their psyche. The difference in how a 13 year old girl, Ava, and the 18 year old boy, Kiwi, deal with the collapse of the park and their impending future is stark. They both have a sense of self righeouness with a mission of goodness. Their well intentions remind me a bit of Russell Banks characters, but with more humor and levity.
The dual journeys of Ava and Kiwi spiral on the verge of out of their control, but they both manage to find their own path towards the salvation of the park. They both have the, unrealistic, end goal of a return to earlier and happier days. The journey is not really about their destination, but rather them both realizing how their world works.
All in all it was an enjoyable ride and the book definitely took some unexpected turns. Fun characters and clever writing kept me hooked all the way through the story.
Worth a paperback or library read.