Author: Karen Russell
Publisher: Vintage Books
The only world that Ava Bigtree has ever known is that of Swamplandia!, her family's island home in the Florida Everglades that also doubles as an alligator theme park. The star of their show is Ava's mother and when her mom dies, the park, and Ava's family, falls apart. Ava's father goes to the mainland to find some investors, her brother leaves home and joins a rival theme park and her sister runs off with her ghost boyfriend. Ava finds herself on a mission through the swamp to save her family.
This is the first time I've come across Karen Russell and it's my understanding that this novel is an expansion on one of her previous short stories. I was completely surprised by how much I liked this book. I found Ava and Ms. Russell's writing engaging. Ms. Russell has a commanding use of vocabulary and language. More than once I thought "now that's a $10 word." The story is unique and fun. There were parts of it I didn't like and some things that I thought could have been better explained but overall a very enjoyable read. I'm thinking about looking up some of her short stories and checking those out.
"The Beginning of the End can feel a lot like the middle when you are living in it. When I was a kid I couldn't see any of these ridges. It was only after Swamplandia!'s fall that time folded into a story with a beginning, a middle and an ending. . . . I didn't realize that one tragedy can beget another, and another - bright-eyed disasters flooding out of a death hole like bates out of a cave." (pg. 8-9)