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Swamplandia! Audiobook

Swamplandia!

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Audible Editor Reviews

The Bigtree clan is a family in crisis. The mother, Hiola, has passed away and she was not only the main gator wrestler and star attraction at the Swamplandia theme park, but the glue that held the family together. Now on the verge of losing their beloved home, the Bigtrees find they are ill-prepared to deal with the real world into which they've been thrust. Each member of the family leaves their sheltered enclave convinced they can somehow turn things around. Yet do they leave Swamplandia more to save it or to escape it?

The narration duties here are divided in some very interesting ways. Actress/writer Arielle Sitrick plays the main character of young Ava in the chapters focusing mainly on Swamplandia. David Ackroyd takes on the role of Kiwi, the older teenage son, with his chapters being told mainly from a rival theme park, a place that's a bizarro alternative universe version of his previous home. The two narrators see things quite differently. Sitrick voices Ava as the winsome innocent and the mystic heart of a Swamplandia where anything is possible; however, did the nostalgic world she remembers ever really exist? Ackroyd plays Kiwi as the somewhat naive yet most practical member of the family. He has big plans and learns quickly, but finds things are not quite so easy out in the real world.

Karen Russell's Swamplandia is an amusing and well crafted piece that's a bit Florida gothic and a bit magical realism. Will Ava's rare red gator save the day? Maybe Kiwi with his big plans and Forrest Gump-like luck will come through after all? Will younger sister Osceola ever marry her long-dead ghost boyfriend? Then again, perhaps the various family pipe dreams are destined to fail, as perhaps is Swamplandia? In the end the characters and the listener have to question just what a happy ending for this quirky family would even look like. That's the journey that Russell takes you on with Swamplandia, and it's a colorful, original trip well worth taking. —Cleo Creech

Publisher's Summary

From the celebrated 29-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," said the 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 number-one 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 98 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.

©2011 Karen Russell (P)2011 Random House

What the Critics Say

“[Russell] has thrown the whole circus of her heart onto the page, safety nets be damned. . . . Russell has deep and true talent.” (San Francisco Chronicle)

“Vividly worded, exuberant in characterization, the novel is a wild ride. . . . This family, wrestling with their desires and demons . . . will lodge in the memories of anyone lucky enough to read Swamplandia!” (The New York Times Book Review)

“The bewitching Swamplandia! is a tremendous achievement.”(Entertainment Weekly)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.3 (539 )
5 star
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3.4 (394 )
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Story
3.4 (394 )
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1 star
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Performance
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  •  
    Justin Saint Louis, MO, United States 04-07-11
    Justin Saint Louis, MO, United States 04-07-11
    HELPFUL VOTES
    4
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    8
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    "just okay"

    this audiobook was my first audible purchase that i really didn't *love* - the narration switches back and forth from a teenage girl (as ava) and an older man narrating brother kiwi's part of the book. i had read the *rave* reviews in entertainment weekly about this book - so i decided to download it and it just did not keep my interest. the family dynamic is well-written but just was not that great to keep my interest. sad that this was my first audiobook purchase that i didn't absolutely adore. usually i can't *wait* to get back to listening to my audiobooks and this one took me a long time to get through just because it wasn't that good.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    mary Sewickley, PA, United States 03-23-11
    mary Sewickley, PA, United States 03-23-11

    pmg-fan

    HELPFUL VOTES
    2
    ratings
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    8
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    "What it means to lose your mother as a 13 year old"

    To me, this book is about the impact of the death of a mother on a young girl and her isolated, eccentric, unworldly brother and sister. Ava the brave one, Ava the designated successor to her mother as the next great female alligator wrestler, Ava the fearless, sees herself as carrying on her mother's (disappearing) legacy. Her brother, Kiwi, has similar dreams (unrealistic) of saving the family business. And Osceola falls into an unreal world of her own. And in the end, Ava's fearlessness and Kiwi's dumb luck (the result of his unrelenting efforts to make something of himself) save the three of them. There's one surprisingly disturbing scene, but I guess it was necessary. I grew to like the female narrator, realizing that her young girl's voice was right for the role. And I liked the male narrator's interjection of energy and disbelief in reading the chapters about Kiwi's adventures.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Beth Hall 05-23-12
    Beth Hall 05-23-12
    HELPFUL VOTES
    3
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    56
    7
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    Performance
    Story
    "Quirky Surprise"
    If you could sum up Swamplandia! in three words, what would they be?

    mysterious precocious rollercoaster


    What did you like best about this story?

    The "you know what" part made me sad, but it also made it real.


    What about Arielle Sitrick and David Ackroyd ’s performance did you like?

    character appropriate


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    No, too much to absorb. I needed a chapter at a time


    Any additional comments?

    This was one of those books that made me sad when it was over. I wanted it to listen to it forever.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Elizabeth Decatur, GA, United States 05-01-12
    Elizabeth Decatur, GA, United States 05-01-12 Member Since 2016

    I read speculative fiction, YA, mysteries, entertaining nonfiction, & occasionally, heavier literature. I want it well written & literate.

    HELPFUL VOTES
    16
    ratings
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    4
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    Story
    "Amazing, powerful, haunting, and funny"
    What did you love best about Swamplandia!?

    The wonderful, screwy fabulous Bigtree family.Before circumstances send them spinning out of control, I wanted to be one of them, wrestling alligators, and running wild in the Florida everglades.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    Ava Bigtree of course. Precocious, funny, brave, the loss of her mother leaves her untethered and vulnerable to evil.


    What does Arielle Sitrick and David Ackroyd bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    The narrators vividly capture the voices of Karen Russell's wonderful characters


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

    Unforgetable


    Any additional comments?

    This is a wonderful, wonderful book, one of my favorites of all time. Everyone should read it. That said, I thought that Russell didn't know how to end it. I found the last bit of the book weaker than the start, but it is still an a fabulously imagined world with characters that jump off the page, voices that will stay with you for the rest of your life. How can a book be side splittingly funny, and heartbreakingly tragic.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    linda land o lakes, FL, United States 02-25-12
    linda land o lakes, FL, United States 02-25-12 Member Since 2010
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "I think it could have been better."

    I was disappointed because for me it was a fictional story that had too much unpleasant , unresolved reality to it . Alltough the narrators were excellent.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    R. Pam United States 05-31-11
    R. Pam United States 05-31-11

    rsvprobin

    ratings
    REVIEWS
    1
    1
    Overall
    "Read this book, do not listen to it"

    This book is unlistenable. I gave up after 5 minutes because of the flat, emotionless narration. The book itself is an original, delightful story, but I read it on the Kindle after mistakenly trying to listen to this recording.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Leslie 03-29-11
    Leslie 03-29-11
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    2
    1
    Overall
    "Bad Female Reader"

    I am currently listening to this book but am so irritated and distracted by the female reader that I wonder if I can continue. It is hard to be objective about the book when the reader is so poor. The male reader is very good, as expected in an audio book.
    She does not know how to pronounce some fairly common words, and has a flat tone that sounds exactly as if she is reading it, not performing it as we expect in a well executed audio book.
    I hope I can finish the book, as I am otherwise enjoying it. Please do not use this reader again!

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    test Newark, NJ, United States 03-17-11
    test Newark, NJ, United States 03-17-11
    HELPFUL VOTES
    6
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    44
    2
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    0
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    Overall
    "Great book to listen"

    I really enjoyed the book very much, great book please listen, I really enjoyed the book very much, great book please listen

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful

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