In 2006, Zoetrope published a story by 24-year-old writer, Karen Russell. That story, Ava Wrestles the Alligator, featured a lusciously strange setting (an alligator theme park in the Everglades) and a tough young heroine with a dead mother and an absent father, as well as a weird problem: how to save her resented-yet-beloved older sister from eloping with a ghost.
A few months later, Russell's first story collection, St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves, with Ava Wrestles the Alligator leading a crazy procession of nine other Florida swampland stories, won her wide acclaim, and in 2010 she was chosen as one of The New Yorker's "20 Under 40" top fiction writers.
Now her fans can sink their teeth into her first novel, Swamplandia! (Alfred A. Knopf), a sort of expansion of and sequel to that alligator story. Vividly worded, exuberant in characterization, the novel is a wild ride: Russell has style in spades.