July 31, 2013


why did it take me so long to read this book? I've been aware of it since it came out in 2011; there was much praise and gushing over it, inclusion in almost every "best of 2011" reading list, and a hold queue at the library that was months long. honestly, I think it was the subject matter... I often a hard time with books/movies that portray Southern poverty. it can very easily veer into unrealistic romanticism that feels unauthentic at best, and exploitation at worst. (Beasts of the Southern Wild gave me a similar icky feeling.) but after seeing so many recommendations over the years, I finally decided to give it a try, and i'm so glad I did- this book is amazing. the setting is a swampy Florida that seems effortlessly conjured up, but it's obvious there were hours upon hours of research and familiarity with the land (and the government's disastrous mismanagement of it) and the culture. and yes, ultimately it's a sad story about the downfall of a poor family's business and livelihood, but Karen Russell's writing is so rich, and each member of the Bigtree family is so dynamic, you really just get swept up into the story. it accomplishes the very rare feat of being a total page turner- each family member's fate hangs in the balance of each chapter, and also being quite deep- metaphors abound if you care to take the time to unpack them. all in all, a really great modern Southern Gothic story that should have won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. (seriously, A Visit from the Goon Squad wins the year before, and this year you'd rather not give out a prize than award it to Karen Russell? so wrong.)

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