Swamplandia!: Novel gives us glimpse of life in the Glades

By Sara Eagle….
In the novel of the same name by Karen Russell, Swamplandia! is a shabby tourist attraction deep in the Everglades, owned by the Bigtree clan of alligator wrestlers. When Hilola, their star performer, dies, her husband and children lose their moorings, and Swamplandia! itself is endangered as audiences dwindle.

“The chief leaves; brother Kiwi, 17, sneaks off to work at a new mainland amusement park, and otherworldly sister Osceola, 16, vanishes after falling in love with the ghost of a young man who died while working for the ill-fated Dredge and Fill Campaign in the 1930s.

It’s up to Ava, 13, to find her sister, and her odyssey to the Underworld is mythic, spellbinding, and terrifying.

In the book Russell uses her profound knowledge of the great imperiled swamp, from its alligators and insects, floating orchids and invasive “strangler” melaleuca trees to the tragic history of its massacred indigenous people and wildlife.

Ravishing, elegiac, funny and brilliantly inquisitive, her archetypal swamp saga tells a mystical yet rooted tale of three innocents who come of age through trials of water, fire, and air.”

Karen Russell will read from her debut novel Swamplandia! on Thursday, Feb. 24, 8 p.m., at Books and Books, 265 Aragon Ave. in  Coral Gables.

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