Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday: Swamplandia! by Karen Russell

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine to highlight an upcoming release we can't wait to read.

My pick this week is Swamplandia! by Karen Russell

Here's how the publisher describes it:
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.
Karen Russell is one of the New Yorker 20 Under 40. I'm slowly working my way through all of their novels and short story collections.  

Swamplandia! will be published on February 1, 2011. Pre-order it now from Amazon or an independent bookstore.

Update: My review of Swamplandia! is now available.

As an affiliate, I receive a small commission when you make a purchase through any of the above links. Thank you!


  1. Oh wow! This one does sound really good. I am going to have to look for it. Thanks for sharing!

  2. My indie bookseller slipped me an early one. I was actually pretty let down. Very imaginative prose but totally contrived plot and characters. Cool writing, not much of a novel. More like a story that was stretched out with a lot of stylistic flourishes. I was really rooting for Russell, enjoyed St. Lucy's, but this is a miss, I'm afraid.


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