Thursday, January 28, 2021

Review: Where the Crawdads Sing

Title: Where the Crawdads Sing
Author: Delia Owens

Publisher: 12th December 2018 by Hachette Australia

Pages: 370 pages

How I Read It: ARC book

Genre: historical fiction, mystery, coming of age

My Rating: 5 cups


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. 

My Thoughts

I was a little concerned coming late to ‘the party’ when it came to reading Crawdads. When a book gets such rave reviews from all quarters, my expectations are often left unfulfilled. Not on this occasion. Whilst there is nothing sensational and attention grabbing about the book as a whole, it captures more an unspoken power, a slow burn that builds connections and wraps itself around you leaving you lost in thought.

“Well, we better hide way out there where the crawdads sing ... “What dya mean, where the crawdads sing? Ma used to say that." Kya remembered Ma always encouraging her to explore the marsh: “Go as far as you can - way out yonder where the crawdads sing."  “Just means far in the bush where critters are wild, still behaving like critters.”            

This is truly a heart wrenching tale that I defy anyone not to feel for the main character Kya. Without going into details, this is a cleverly written dual time narrative - one in 1969 with a murder and consequent trial and the other starting in 1952 until it finally merges with the 1969 timeline. Than in itself is clever writing. From 1952 when first Kya’s mother, then siblings, then father walked out and abandoned her, Kya is left all alone and must adapt and survive from the age of like seven! Truly unthinkable! Yes, she may be the ‘Marsh Girl’ but what other human being, regardless of where they came from, would not lend assistance? Only a kind coloured couple care and that is difficult as, remember, this is the 1950s in America. Kya struggles understandably - physically, socially, emotionally ... you name it. Then whenever help is offered, is it genuine? Are the relationship understandings reciprocated or will be Kya abandoned all over again? 

“Please don’t talk to me about isolation. No one has to tell me how it changes a person. I have lived it. I am isolation.”

Interwoven throughout this struggle for survival is some of the most beautifully written prose of North Carolina marshes, wildlife and small town living. Intersperse a murder trial throughout and you begin to understand the fanfare behind this book. It is well done in all aspects. Do yourself a favour and read this book. It is beautifully written, thoughtful, emotive and will sit with you long after the final page is turned. 

“Tate, I appreciate your teaching me to read and all those things you gave me. But why’d you         

do it? Don't you have a girlfriend or somebody like that?” “Nah ... I like being out here in the quiet and I like the way you’re so interested in the marsh, Kya. Most people don't pay it any attention except to fish. They think it's wasteland that should be drained and developed. People don't understand ...”


This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.

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