Visiting Swamplandia & Other Travels

For those of you who read fiction, you may have heard the buzz about Karen Russell’s first novel, Swamplandia, a book that follows the adventures of  Ava Bigtree, a young heroine born and raised on Swamplandia, a gator-wrestling themed park in rural Florida.  When I read the reviews, I knew that I would want to read this work: the plot encompasses both Southern gothic themes along with class issues.  I have to say that the book has lived up to its hype — the whole time I was reading about Ava, I was thinking that Russell easily blends the darkness of  Mitch Cullin’s Tideland and bizarre characters from the short stories of Flannery O’Connor.

Swamplandia also reminds me of two poetry books I read a few years ago: My Florida by Kathleen Tyler (I did a review of Tyler’s book. You can read it here.) and The Dirt Eaters by Teri Youmans Grimm.  Both books explore the rural life of southern states — a world far away from the glitz of rich tourists and fancy homes that many of us often equate with the south — especially Florida.

Since I finished Swamplandia, and I have a small holiday weekend, I am going to be finishing up another adventure.  Yesterday, I picked up Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins.  Is anyone else out there addicted to the Hunger Games series?  I picked up the first book in late January, and have been reading ever since (okay, maybe not ever since — I finished the first two in the series in less than five hours).  I can’t wait to see how this series ends!  For those of you who enjoy young adult books or dystopian science fiction, you may want to check these books out.


  1. I just ordered Swamplandia from the library yesterday (though I was tempted to just pay hardcover prices for it – I loved St. Lucy’s School for Girls Raised by Wolves, AND I actually have relatives who wrestle alligators for a living in Florida, so I thought it would be right up my alley.) What kills me is the writer (profiled in the new Poets & Writers) is only 29!!! Gah!

  2. Karen Said:

    29. I know. Sigh. At 29, I was wandering around my first full time job trying to figure out where I fit in. (Not much has changed)

    You had relatives who wrestled with alligators? Wow. There has to be a poem (or two or three) in there somewhere! I am thinking about getting her collection of short stories — it looks great.

  3. Yes, an uncle – I have a bunch of Cajun relatives living somewhere in the Everglades, with only my dim childhood memories of eating crawfish and being scared of the alligator farms.

    Her first collection of short stories is worth the price of admission for the title story alone, which is pretty great.

  4. Erin Said:

    Loved the whole Hunger Games series, including Mockingjay, so enjoy. Got any other YA you’d like to recommend? Check out my blog today, it’s about the guilty pleasure of reading a YA Fantasy novel from cover to cover in one sitting! I’m sure you can relate.

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