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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

3.4 (617 )
5 star
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Story
3.4 (470 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Melinda Shoreline, WA, United States 10-25-13
    Melinda Shoreline, WA, United States 10-25-13
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Head on into the swamp"

    I found this book to be quite well-written, but the decision to use 2 narrators was a distractingly bad experience... The book is solid when Ava is narrating, but when Kiwi is narrating, it, the book sounds like it isn't even being directed by the same person. If they just would have stuck with Arielle Sitrick, it would have been a MUCH better listen.

    If you want diverse, quirky characters and want exquisite descriptions of the Florida wetlands... this could be your book!

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Marcy Fairfield, CT, United States 11-13-12
    Marcy Fairfield, CT, United States 11-13-12 Member Since 2009
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Choose to read this one instead of listen"

    The narration by Arielle Sitrick really took away from this book. It was very poor quality -- flat with a lot of swallowed words and very little emotion. Compared in-book with the narration of David Ackroyd she pales even more in comparison. Mr. Ackroyd's section were vastly superior. I have to say I was very disappointed and surprised by this lack of talent.

    When I finished listening to the book and thought about it I did realize that the story actually has something to it worth reading and worth thinking about. In this case I wish I had just read it. I've never felt that way about an audiobook before.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kelli Birmingham, AL, United States 03-01-12
    Kelli Birmingham, AL, United States 03-01-12 Member Since 2016
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Just Don't Get The Hype"

    I just didn't like it. My boyfriend and I read it together and we both felt a real sense of disappointment. Did we just not "get" the hype? Were we missing something? I felt disjointed most of the time like it was really two novels spliced together - one trying to work its way under the magical realism genre and the other a sort of coming of age humorous one. The result for me was muddled, and maybe I just don't like magical realism or maybe Russell was working just a little too hard at making this a quirky novel. It hit me hardest when I realized what was happening to Ava....and didn't care. Yup, I just didn't care what really happened to any of these characters and, in the end, that's not the way to endear the reader. Oh well.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    F. Turner Corpus Christi, TX United States 02-24-12
    F. Turner Corpus Christi, TX United States 02-24-12 Member Since 2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Audible should not sell this book..."
    Any additional comments?

    I am a long-term Audible customer and have read many audible books I didn't like or even finish. Fair enough; caveat emptor. Most audible books are great and have given me hours of pleasure. However, the narration of Swamplandia is so dreadful, so amateurish, I couldn't get past the first hour. Does audible exercise any quality control regarding its selection of the audio versions it sells? How bad does a book have to be before Audible editors take it off the shelf? Did the publisher of Swamplandia set a bored 13-year-old at a table and force her to read this book, a book she obviously hated? (Sorry, Arielle, but your producer/director did you a disservice by not giving you the support you needed. Most bad narrations are really producer/director generated.) And...please...Audible...ask the publisher to try again. The book itself looks great.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Andre Ithaca, NY, United States 01-29-12
    Andre Ithaca, NY, United States 01-29-12 Listener Since 2003
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Intriguing story, miserable reading"

    The story is highly unusual and very imaginative. I wanted to hear the rest of it. But I was completely unable to continue listening to it because the reading voice of the young woman relating it was so absolutely abominable. She speaks too fast by far, and her sibilants are half way to a lisp. Overall, I missed understanding of at least 1 word out of 10; it became highly frustrating and I just had to stop at less than half way.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Andrea 08-08-11
    Andrea 08-08-11
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Don't go to Swamplandia"

    This could have been fun but got bogged down in the swamp. Wish'd the gators had eaten a few of the characters it would've been shorter...

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    MG Albuquerque, NM, United States 08-30-12
    MG Albuquerque, NM, United States 08-30-12 Member Since 2008
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    "I tried. I really tried."

    I just couldn't get into this book. It seemed imaginative and is very well written. After many hours, I just didn't care how it ended.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    B. Ruttenberg 10-09-17 Listener Since 2009
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    "Not a Children's Story"

    Performance: I had a difficult time with the female narrator. From an aesthetic standpoint, I understand the use of the particular performer as her voice is distinctly "youthful-feminine," - much like listening to a mature pre-teen - and her performance was excellent (which is why 5 stars) but I struggled listening to her narrate - don't know why, just did.

    Story: Much to my surprise, this is not a children's story. While written from the perspective of a child, the story is about the loss of innocence and loss of childhood - the subject matter being distinctly adult in parts. Admittedly, my mistake was due in large part to the whimsical book-cover - owing nothing to my knowledge of the actual contents of the book. Guess the saying is true...

    Overall: I would recommend this book. It is whimsical and realistic and Karen Russell is an incredibly talented wordsmith. The setting is a character all its own, and Karen Russell brings the swamp to life, with all its minute manifestations and labyrinthine waterways.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer 06-22-17 Member Since 2017
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    "Horrible!"

    It seemed like the reader was just hurrying through this to get to the end, and I understand that - I couldn't wait for it to be over either. Does anyone "proof" these before they are released to the public? I have never heard so many mispronunciations in one book. What a waste of time - and reviewers loved this book - unreal!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    KIM B. 05-10-17
    KIM B. 05-10-17 Member Since 2017
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Odd, unmatched reader choices"

    This is a book I think I would really enjoy reading but I'm not crazy about the readers. The young woman is a good reader - for her apparent age - but I keep getting distracted by her odd emphases of sentences. The man who reads her brother's part of the story sounds so much older and has such a different style that it's quite jarring every time he comes in.

    The story is really interesting and has a weird quality of magical realism that is quite enchanting.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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