I am now a fervent member of the Karen Russell fan club. Born in Miami, the stories in her first collection St Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves are set mostly in the Florida Everglades, a vast swamp inhabited by people on the margins of society,swamp dwellers, half human monsters. I see future academic conferences on the grotesque in Russell, I see unreadable academic papers on her work coming. To me her stories are a pure joy to read. There is a fierce intelligence, a love for those not at home in nightclubs and yacht basins in Miami in her stories. There is a fascination with the monstrous, a desire to descend with Orpheus.
I think "Ava Wrestled with Alligators" might be later incorporated into her novel Swamplandia but I am not sure. If you have ever driven on a notoriously dangerous two lane road in south Florida called "Alligator Alley" you have seen tourist attractions that advertise alligator farms and air boat rides through the Everglades. This story is about a family that runs one of these tourist attractions. (swamp boat air rides are worth doing once).
The family consists of a man identified as an Indian chief (part of the tourist stuff), and two sisters, one 16 and one 20. For them Miami might as well be the Moon. The chief has gone off for a few days, leaving the younger sister in charge. The older sister is described as "special". I really don't want to tell much of the plot. There are all sorts of profound meanings one could read into this wonderful story. I found reading it a marvelous experience on many levels.