Swamplandia is the story of a family on the verge of failure, and the various ways that collapse comes to pass after Hilola Bigtree, mother, wife and celebrated alligator wrestler, dies suddenly. It's the story of a family struggling in uncertain economic times, being squeezed out by a corporate theme park, and the various ways Chief Bigtree and his three children, Kiwi, Osceola and Ava try to cope.
This makes it sound
too straightforward. This is a marvellously twisty book, with delves
almost into magical realism, which creates the world of the swamps,
Swamplandia, The World of Darkness (the big theme park) and the
lifesucking suburbs of nearby Loomis vividly.
disappears to help the family out (and, we eventually discover, the
family may have been on the verge of collapse even longer than anyone
knew, but Chief and Hilola had kept the mythology of self-sufficient
alligator wrestlers alive for themselves and their children through
years of tough times.) Kiwi leaves to work at the World of Darkness,
hoping to send money home, and prove his genius. Osceola dives into
spiritualism, and attracts a spirit boyfriend. Ava, 13, is determined to
take up her mother's mantle and save the family, and takes a journey
into the Everglades that ends in horror that haunts all of those scenes
and seems to draw inevitably closer.
There are no punches pulled in Swamplandia! No easy answers. And yet, lots of hope and love. I thoroughly enjoyed it.