I’ve really enjoyed this book, though it left somethings unfinished. I’m looking forward to reading more from Russell in the future. Check it out:
Swamplandia! follows the Bigtree family after the death of Hilola Bigtree, the family’s mother. They’re drowning in debt, business has died, and the three children–Kiwi, Ossie, and Ava–are all falling into a lonely individualism.
- The descriptions in this book are beautiful and detailed.
- Relationships between characters and the swamp are fleshed out and intimate.
- The timelines reflect a very poigniant aspect of our society: family structure in the face of death and debt.
Things left to be desired:
- There is not a clear connection between events and the plot
- Karen does not explore Ossie’s timeline. Ossie believes she is talking to ghosts and seems to be mentally ill. Though she says that her adventures into the swamp were dangerous and exciting, we don’t get to see that. We don’t get to see her develop either.
- I was a bit shocked that Ava is, essentially, led to believe that by talking about her assault in the swamp that she would harm the tenuous balance her family is reached. As far as we know, she takes it to her grave. For a girl who couldn’t seem to keep anything secret, this is a heavy one for Russell to have her keep.
You can also find interviews with Karen Russell about Swamplandia! on NPR.
Title: American Gods
Author: Neil Gaiman
Publication Date: June 19, 2001
Overview: Shadow is just about to get out of jail and go back to his wife, Laura. Only a few days before he’s set to be released, he gets called into the warden’s office. He’s being let out early. His wife is dead.
On his flight back he meets Mr. Wednesday. Wednesday seems to know too much about Shadow. Shadow isn’t sure what to think, but accepts Wednesday’s offer for a job. He starts going around the country with Wednesday, and Shadow discovers that there’s a war brewing in America, a war of the gods.
For Fans Of: Neil Gaiman (duh)
World-Building: Gaiman constructs a hidden world within on own. The world of gods forgotten and the gods that are rising. It’s not seamless. There are overlaps that seem to go suspiciously unnoticed by the average population. However, how the world developed is extremely well done. Gaiman gives us a view of the world’s history and its members that is to die for. It’s beautifully developed and described.
Character Development: Shadow, Laura, and Wednesday are interesting characters in the plot. Shadow, as Laura says, is not always alive. Prison has made him almost brutally self controlled. But his adventures with Wednesday show what’s underneath, including a strong sense of honor and loyalty. Wednesday isn’t who we think he is, but that’s what makes him fun. Laura is interesting (she’s dead after all), but her growth is not insignificant. She stays, at her core, very much the same. But she’s also not as naive as we think she is.
Plot: The plot bends back on itself at times. It’s not a bad thing and really helps flesh out the world within worlds. Some events seem, at first, to happen sporadically, but it’s to the benefit of the plot in the long run, especially when you learn more about the war.
Book Depository Link: http://www.bookdepository.com/American-Gods-Neil-Gaiman/9780380789030