Swamplandia! is the story of a family who, after the death of their mother, struggles to keep their family together and their long running alligator tourist attraction. When the three siblings, Ava, Ossie, and Kiwi, all get separated, Russell’s magical prose tells the epic story of how they reunite and move on.
Karen Russell’s first novel offers three elements that make it worth reading. First, the setting. A family run alligator farm in the swamps of Florida. The descriptions are brilliant; of the alligator wrestling, of their recently deceased mother’s nightly shows, of the birth of a red alligator, of the tourists that come streaming through their park. It’s almost magical, although the book is mostly grounded in the real world.
Second, Ava. Ava is the youngest child in the family, struggling to save the family’s alligator park because she desperately wants to keep her family together and their traditions alive. The way she identifies with the alligators, the way she wants to mimic her mother in every way, the way she believes in her sister’s elaborate ghost stories.