Where the Crawdads Sing
Updated: Feb 28
Title: Where the Crawdads Sing
Author: Delia Owens
Published: 14th August 2018
Genres: Mystery, Fiction, Bildungsroman
Start Date: 4th October 2022
Finish Date: 4th October 2022
For years, rumours 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 behaviour 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 is a story of resiliency, survival, hope, love, loss, loneliness, desperation, prejudice, determination and strength. This book goes back and forth in time to tell the story of Kya Clark a.k.a. the Marsh girl. She lives on the outskirts of town, in the Marsh, and the locals look down their noses at her, she is judged, ridiculed and bullied. But some show her kindness, friendship and show her love.
A story of survival, of what the depth of loneliness feels like when a young girl is abandoned first by her mother, then by her four siblings. Even at five Kya understands why they left - because of her father, because of his meanness, his abuse, and his drinking. What she doesn’t understand is why they left her behind and neither could I. She remains pretty much alone since her father comes and goes until he doesn’t come back. It was gutting as she sits on the beach with the gulls not wanting them to fly away and leave her too. Heartbreaking how she is neglected and abandoned, remembering the beatings, and trying to figure out a way to eat. She is left to care for their home, cook, clean and take care of both of their needs. How her situation pulled on my heartstrings. She had to learn to shop, cook and provide food for herself in her father's absence. All while dealing with loneliness, feelings of abandonment and loss. Always wondering when and if her Mother will ever return. She was a smart and clever girl who knew the marsh and found ways to make money and provide for her basic needs. Soon 'Jumpin and his wife, Mable, show her kindness, generosity and love. I dare you not to adore this couple!
As Kya grows and learns more about life through her interactions with the creatures of the Marsh, two young men enter her life. One is her brother's older friend, Tate, who teaches her to read and shows her acceptance and happiness. Another brings her hope of a future but won’t introduce her to his friends and family. Could one be her chance at happiness? A chance at belonging? A chance at being accepted? A chance at being loved? A Chance for growth? Or will history repeat itself?
In 1969, local football legend, Chase Andrews is found dead. Rumours swirl as to motive and possible suspects. Rumours have been circulating for years about Chase and his involvement with the Marsh girl. Could she be his killer? What motive could she have?
Atmospheric is an understatement, and I don’t use that word often because it seems overused sometimes but this place, the marsh permeates just about everything meaningful in this story beginning with Kya’s realization “And the marsh became her mother.” The marsh becomes her life, her livelihood, the essence of who she becomes through her self-learned expertise of the insects and the birds, her art. But is it enough to heal her? The kind hearts of Jumpin’ and Mabel who help a little girl alone and in need, are the only human contact she has until her brother’s friend Tate comes into her life, but is that enough to help her heal? I love the writing and fabulous descriptions of the marsh. The marsh and its inhabitants, the insects, the fish, and the birds which pique Kya’s curiosity, give her so much joy and company and allow her to become the expert she does become on the marsh and marsh life. But is that enough to make Kya whole after so much hurt and loneliness?
Kya has two real love relationships in the book. Tate she has known all of her life but now that she is older she views him differently, and she begins to feel real love. He teaches her how to read which opens up the world to her. He is in her life for quite a few years and she seems happy, her life is good. She loves the marsh and all that inhabit it. She collects many things and categorizes them. From the books Tate brings her she learns biology, math, and how things grow and change and she is fascinated by the marsh. The author describes the marshland so well I felt transported there, felt the humid air, the squashing feel when I walked and encountered all of the creatures described in this book.
This book had a little bit of everything that I love: a likeable main character who pulls at your heartstrings, murder mystery, atmosphere, drama, coming of age, and romance. Several characters give and show kindness including, Tate, the cashier who gives back too much change and the couple who makes sure Kya has what she needs. What is the saying? Those that have the least to give, give the most! There is a police investigation and courtroom drama and some twists and turns I did not see coming.
There is beautiful poetry and paintings that I felt I could see. Read this book, and you will be wonderfully surprised, entranced and feel great about a book again. Read Kya’s story, she will stay with you for a very long time. This book is beautifully written and contains poetry and vivid descriptions of the Marsh. I highly recommend this book! It's thoughtful, evokes emotion, and transports the reader back in time to the Marsh. I loved every page.