Swamplandia!, By Karen Russell

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The Independent Culture

Russell's distinctive short-story debut St Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves kicked off with a series of Florida swampland-based stories. Now readers can sink their teeth into this eccentric and exuberant first novel about a failing alligator theme park and the family that run it.

The novel is narrated by 12-year-old Ava, who with her two siblings is left to manage Swamplandia and its 70 'gators after the death of their mother from cancer.

Ava's sister, Osceola, starts a romantic relationship with a ghost, and her brother, Kiwi, defects to the rival theme park, The World of Darkness, to pick up corporate tips.

The plot may be familiar - how a family pulls together after tragedy - but Russell's primeval imaginings and gutsy language lurk long in the memory.