Where the Crawdads Sing
by Delia Owens
For years, rumors of the “Marsh Girl” haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet fishing village. Kya Clark is barefoot and wild; unfit for polite society. So in late 1969, when the popular Chase Andrews is found dead, locals immediately suspect her.
But Kya is not what they say. A born naturalist with just one day of school, she takes life’s lessons from the land, learning the real ways of the world from the dishonest signals of fireflies. But while she has the skills to live in solitude forever, the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. Drawn to two young men from town, who are each intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new and startling world–until the unthinkable happens.
In Where the Crawdads Sing, Owens juxtaposes an exquisite ode to the natural world against a profound coming of age story and haunting mystery. Thought-provoking, wise, and deeply moving, Owens’s debut novel reminds us that we are forever shaped by the child within us, while also subject to the beautiful and violent secrets that nature keeps.
The story asks how isolation influences the behavior of a young woman, who like all of us, has the genetic propensity to belong to a group. The clues to the mystery are brushed into the lush habitat and natural histories of its wild creatures.
“Where the Crawdads Sing” has been on my radar for a few years but for some reason I just never picked it up. When the film version was announced to be coming to the cinema, I knew that I needed to read the book before seeing it on the big screen.
Now I can finally understand why people enjoy this book so much! I have to admit that I went it with low expectations, as I often find that books don’t live up to the hype when it’s been so extreme, but I was happily proved wrong on this occasion.
Told with beautiful description, Delia Owen’s story is one of resilience, survival, hope, love and loss. Exploring loneliness, prejudice and ridicule, this is the story of Kya Clark, known locally as the Marsh Girl. Kya was left alone as a young girl and now lives a solitary life in the Marsh on the outskirts of town, judged harshly by those who do not understand or wish to learn about her lifestyle. Despite having a pretty hopeless start at life, Kya is smart and she finds ways to cook, clean and take care of herself.
“She knew the years of isolation had altered her behavior until she was different from others, but it wasn’t her fault she’d been alone. Most of what she knew, she’d learned from the wild. Nature had nurtured, tutored, and protected her when no one else would.”
This story was such a powerful mixture of genres, combining a coming of age story with drama and mystery, but what I liked most was how vividly descriptive it is. I felt that I could clearly picture the atmospheric setting as I read, transporting me as a reader into the Marsh. As a wildlife scientist, it’s clear that the author knows her stuff as the depth of detail meant that at many points this story reads like an ode to the natural environment and the marshes in particular.
“Autumn leaves don’t fall, they fly. They take their time and wander on this their only chance to soar.”
I found the story to be touching and inspiring but most of all I’m in awe of the author’s storytelling. I really enjoyed this one and am glad to have finally read it. I look forward to seeing the film adaptation soon!
Overall rating: “Where the Crawdads Sing” has had a huge amount of praise over the last couple of years and rightly so. I really enjoyed this atmospheric tale and the way the reader is immersed into the Marsh alongside little Kya. 5 stars!
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