This month, Books & Bars discusses Karen Russell's wildly imaginative debut novel, Swamplandia! (Knopf). Named one of the New York Times' 10 Best Books of 2011, this fantastical ride of a story takes place on an island theme park of the same name. Run by the Bigtree family, the park's showstopping acts include alligator wrestling matches and swimming races. Everyone in the family, including 13-year-old Ava, is involved in running the park. After their mother, star of the main show, dies of cancer, things get rough. Ava's genius brother Kiwi defects to theme-park competitor World of Darkness, her sister Ossie claims to be dating ghosts, and her father, Chief Bigtree, withdraws from the chaos. Ava must step up and find a way to save the park, and her dysfunctional family. Russell has previously published a book of short stories called St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves, where Swamplandia! originated. If you can't make Books & Bars this week, get over to Amsterdam in St. Paul on Wednesday, February 29, for another talk on the novel.
Wed., Feb. 15, 7 p.m., 2012