Title: Where the Crawdads Sing
Author: Delia Owens
Published: August 2018
Genre(s): Historical Fiction, Mystery
Summary: Set in 1950s North Carolina, this is a coming-of-age story of Kya Clark, neglected little girl in the marshes by the ocean. Kya’s family is not to be counted upon, and the people of the small town her marsh is near, Barkley Cove, are unkind and unwelcoming to her kind. She must learn to take care of herself under the most trying and seemingly impossible circumstances. She comes to find friendship in the birds and solace in the quiet, natural setting she has lived in her whole life. Despite the comfort of her surroundings, Kya can’t help but be drawn to people and her natural instincts to yearn for connection with them. Kya’s involvement with Chase Andrews makes her a suspect in his 1969 death. The story switches between the 1950s and 1969 until the two diverge to discover what led Kya to this precarious position in 1969.
Why I Recommend: The first thing that struck me about this book was how beautifully written it was. The writing lets the reader explore the marshes of North Carolina right along side Kya. I could practically smell the salt and see the draping Spanish moss. I’m not typically one for naturalist emphasis in books, but it really worked in this case. Kya put her interactions with other people into a context she understood, which was that of nature. When she is rejected by the people of her community she might explain it through the lens of how species may ostracize and eliminate those of them that are different or somehow defective. She likened the ego and actions of her suitors to the plumage and strut of a peacock. I was completely mesmerized by the setting and the ways in which Kya’s story was interwoven into her surroundings.
Beyond the writing Kya’s story was incredibly compelling. You first meet her around age six when she is reeling with the sudden departure and abandonment of her mother. She spends much of her time defending her mother’s behavior in her head and rationalizing that she will return to her. The reality of her situation, however, was quite miserable. She is left at home with her cruel, drunken father and only one of her three siblings for the rest had also fled. It doesn’t take long though for Kya to find herself in a position of caring for herself at an age entirely too young. She is resourceful and smart and learns time and time again that people are not to be trusted, but sometimes they are essential to survival. She navigates the marshes and learns how to use these natural resources to provide her with the things she needs. As she ages and her body changes, she is left without any explanation other than the animals around her. When her body begins to yearn affection, she is drawn into relationships with the brave individuals who are willing to talk to the “Marsh Girl.” Without connection with society and therefore societal norms, she approaches her relationships as a child would and is vulnerable and sometimes taken advantage of. Jaded in some ways, but naive in others, her relationships eventually lead her to becoming a suspect in Chase Andrew’s death investigation.
The book is three-quarters coming-of-age story, and one-quarter mystery/courtroom drama. Delia Owens kept me on the edge of my seat making me put my actual life on hold until I learned the ending she had in store for Kya. This book has everything, it is a historical fiction story that incorporates family drama, romance, and a well-plotted mystery. It made me cry and sigh and hold my breath with anticipation. It showcased how cruel people can be to one another, but also how meaningful it is when people are instead kind to each other. It was thoroughly enjoyable and is the best book I have read so far in 2019. I highly, highly recommend it! (P.S. the audiobook is excellent!)