The Bigtree family run an alligator amusement park called Swamplandia! in Florida, until tragedy strikes. The three Bigtree children are bereft after their grandfather is admitted to a floating nursing home and their mother, Hilola, dies of cancer. Meanwhile, business dries up because a new amusement park called The World of Darkness opens up nearby.
The oldest Bigtree sibling, Kiwi, urges his father, Chief Bigtree, to sell Swamplandia!, but Chief is adamant about wanting to stay. Meanwhile, middle child Osceola finds a book named The Spiritist’s Telegraph and becomes obsessed with the supernatural.
Eventually, Kiwi and Chief both leave Swamplandia!, which means Osceola and the youngest sibling, Ava, are left alone there. When Osceola disappears, Ava must try to find her with the help of the Bird Man, whom she has just met.
Part coming-of-age, part family saga, and part satire, the novel has been called “a queer, ghoulish” book by The Guardian. “Ms Russell knows how to use bizarre ingredients to absolutely irresistible effect,” says a New York Times review of the novel.
Swamplandia! was a New York Times Best Book of the Year, and was nominated for the Orange Prize, while Russell was named one of Granta’s Best Young American Novelists, and selected for the New Yorker’s 20 under 40.
Published in 2011.