by Karen Russell
Paperback, 400 pages
A familiar story—a flawed family struggling to heal after a traumatic death—is told against the shimmering and otherworldly backdrop of the Florida Everglades in Swamplandia!, Karen Russell’s debut novel. Remarkably similar in style and content to Katherine Dunn’s Geek Love, this book is perfect for the reader looking for the unique experience that only novels about dysfunctional carnival families can provide. Through the perspective of thirteen-year-old Ava Bigtree, Swamplandia!’s protagonist (and the best alligator wrestler in the tri-state area), Dunn seamlessly juxtaposes themes of the mystical and the mundane, loneliness and camaraderie, innocence and corruption. You’ll find yourself rooting for Ava, who, above all else, is just a kid scrambling to piece together the broken and scattered shards of “The Bigtree Clan." Perfect for a sweltering August night when our Wisconsin wetlands seem similar to Florida’s ghostly swamps.