Thursday, September 8, 2011

Swamplandia! by Karen Russell ****

Eva Bigtree is the youngest daughter of the Bigtree tribe, home schooled and in training to follow in her mother's wake swimming through and wrestling with the alligators at the family business: Swamplandia! - a tourist attraction in Florida. Swamplandia! by Karen Russell is the surrealistic tale of of the aftermath of the death of Hilola Bigtree, Eva's mom and the star of Swamplandia!

When Hilola dies, Swamplandia! attendance decreases until the ferry from the mainland no longer makes the stop at Swamplandia! Grandpa Sawtooth is shipped off to the Out to Sea rest home. Patriarch Chief Bigtree disappears on an extended business trip. Eva's brother Kiwi goes off to seek his fortune at the competition: World of Darkness - a hell-themed amusement park. Her sister Osceola falls in love with a ghost and elopes.

As the last remaining Bigtree at Swamplandia!, Eva sets off to find her sister on a voyage across the swamp reminiscent of Odysseus. In a parallel journey, Kiwi searches for his place among the mainlanders and the Chief. In this upside world of dysfunction, children are responsible to rescue their parents and older siblings.

Russell evocatively mixes poetic writing, all too human emotions and the fantastic for a wonderful tale of a family under stress - an uplifting testament to the strength in all of us.

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