by Karen Russell
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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.
I'd been waiting for this release...much hyped by critics, so I was a lemming and ended up at the bottom of a cliff. Needless to say, wish I would have passed. A unique premise doesn't always equal a clever read. As far as the production, SIMPLY AWFUL (the worst I've heard yet)...it reminded me of listening to readers take their turn in class, disrhythmic, uninspired, flat, and dozens of words actually mispronounced! Second entry for my Worst of 2011.
Totally disagree with the reviewer who said that the readers were awful. I enjoyed it, felt the readers were fine, the character of Ava was a child and therefore the reader's voice was child-like, perhaps that was annoying to the listener . . .
Arielle Sitrick just about drove me nuts with her flat, monotonous lack of inflection -- nearly every sentence plods along in a dreary, colorless monotone until the last few words, at which time the sentence drops off in pitch and withers away. The effect is a stultifying drip, drip, drip, drip, drip...