Our mother performed in starlight.
Ava Bigtree lives in Swamplandia! with her family. They wrestle alligators in front of tourists for a living. Until recently Ava’s mother Hillola was the star of the show, her moonlight swim through the gator pond was always a hit with the audience. But then she got sick, and died. And Grandpa Sawtooth has been taken to the old folk’s home. Tourist numbers are down, and things are only getting worse. Chief Bigtree, Ava’s father, goes off to the mainland on a business trip looking for investors, and Ava’s older brother Kiwi has abandoned the swamp, taking a job with the arch-enemy, The World of Darkness, a more modern and lucrative amusement park. And now Ava’s sister is dating ghosts.
I soooo wanted to like this book. I’d heard so many good things about her collection of short stories, St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves, and about Russell’s writing that I thought this would be a book that would suit me. And the blurb promised a dark and mythic story. Plus, you know, alligators and swaps.
But I found that while some aspects of this book really did work, it just didn’t pull together as a whole. There were hints of atmosphere, but the plot just meandered on and around and over here, and then back again. It never held my attention despite some of the scenes, such as the story of Louis Thanksgiving, that I thought was very well done.
And as a whole it was predictable. And bits of it seemed dark just to be dark, they didn’t add to the story, or to the characters. And in many ways the style of the book echoed that unsatisfying experience. While in some places I did really enjoy her way of describing a person, or a scene, for the most part I was bored. I was tempted to stop, but Ava & Kiwi’s stories gripped me just enough that I had sufficient interest to finish the book.