Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Swamplandia! (copy)

It is going to be a swampy summer! All this water will take time to evaporate and I foresee stagnant mosquito-infested pools in our near future. Why not celebrate with the perfect book titled “Swamplandia!” by debut author Karen Russell.

Swamplandia! is a family operated theme park in Florida on a swampy island in the Gulf of Mexico. It enjoyed being the top rated Gator-Themed Park and Swamp Café for years, but things are changing. World of Darkness moved north and everyone wants to walk on the neon tongue of the behemoth or should I say laser behe(mouth) they offer.

Back in the day, Swamplandia! entertained sold out crowds with a routine called “Swimming with the Seths.” Seth was the name given to the very first alligator that attracted tourist to the theme park. Now, all 98 gators are called Seth.

“Swimming with the Seths” was a closing act done in complete darkness. Hilola Jane Bigtree stood on the edge of a green diving board overlooking the gator infested pool. The audience would see her silhouetted body poised with arms above her head in the faint light of the moon. The spot lights were always turned off.

With a swift graceful move she would dive into the black water and swim the length emerging on the other side in three minutes. Most of the audience held their breath night after night. Some even stood and gasped as a gator or two matched her stroke side-by-side. It never failed, though. She arose from the dangerous waters unscathed to hundreds of clapping hands.

The family, Bigtree, is two less now. Hilola, the mother, died of cancer and her father, Sawtooth Bigtree, is in a retirement home on the mainland. All that is left of the tribe is Chief Bigtree, older brother, Kiwi Bigtree, and two sisters, Osceola and 13-year-old Ava Bigtree. The story is told through young Ava’s eyes.

It is Ava who discovers a rare red alligator in the newly hatched brood. She says nothing to Chief for she knows the hatchling may not live past the week. Within three days all of her brothers and sisters die of yolk sac infection, but she continues to thrive. This rare little red Seth may just save the park.

There is no muck associated with this book! “Swamplandia!’ establishes Russell’s clear, clean and fascinating prose.

4 comments: