Swamplandia! comes from Karen Russell, an author who has been recently included in The New Yorker's "20 under 40" list of standout young writers. Everywhere I turn, I am told that Russell is the bee's knees. And, accordingly, it seems that Swamplandia! confirms this. Russell's debut novel charms, intrigues, and conjures up dream-worthy imagery.

Expanded from a story in St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves (2006), Russell's short story collection, the book tells the tale of a family who operates an unusual theme park in Florida, one that involves a heck of a lot of alligator wrestling. The matriarch of the family, professional spectacular alligator wrestler, suddenly dies of cancer, and the family is left to fend for themselves. Thirteen-year-old Ava is off to follow in her mother's footsteps and wrestle her way towards saving the dying park.

The book intertwines the real and the unreal, creating a fantastical adventure sure to engage. As a perpetual fan of whimsy and fancifulness, I give it an enthusiastic exclamation mark: !

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