#FridayReads: Swamplandia! by Karen Russell (audio)

Swamplanida by Karen RussellKaren Russell’s second book is tragically strange and lush with beautiful prose.

It follows the Bigtree family, who own an alligator-themed park where all the alligators are named Seth. After the star alligator wrestler (and mother of the narrators) dies of cancer, Swamplandia! declines, eclipsed by a newer, slicker park called World of Darkness.

The story is told by two of the children, Eva and Kiwi, who each get a distinct narrator for the audio version. I’m less fond of Kiwi’s reader than Eva’s, but both are appropriate for the mood and tone of their respective sections.

Russell takes us on a tour through the lives of this alligator-wrestling family by using objects and sensory details. We learn what items of significance the Bigtrees keep in their “museum,” what kinds of souvenirs they stock in the gift shop, and what sorts of items they keep personally.

The way these objects overlap, intersect, and stand in stark contrast to each other reveals a family that doesn’t know the way forward, but is desperately trying to find it.

I’m looking forward to listening to the rest of the book and learning what becomes of Swamplandia! and the Bigtree family (and all the Seths).

 

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