Straight Outta Swampton
Karen Russell's debut novel illuminates carnies, nature and innocence lost
Ava Bigtree is a third-generation "equestrian of Mesozoic lizards"—an alligator wrestler, if you speak mainlander. She lives with her eccentric circus family on a small island off the coast of southern Florida. There, at their bizarre theme-park, the titular Swamplandia!, they've made a business of wowing tourists with death-defying acts in their stadium-seated Gator Pit.