Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

11 March 2021

Where the Crawdads Sing
Published on August 14, 2018 by Hachette


For years, rumors of the "Marsh Girl" have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl. But Kya is not what they say. Sensitive and intelligent, she has survived for years alone in the marsh that she calls home, finding friends in the gulls and lessons in the sand. Then the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. When two young men from town become intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new life--until the unthinkable happens.

I keep thinking about how debut novels don’t often reach expectations; the bar isn’t exactly low, but there’s a level of uncertainty where you pick up a new book, by an unknown author, and ask yourself, “Will this book change my life?” — Where the Crawdads Sing certainly did. 

Born in the marsh in the outskirts of Barkley Cove in North Carolina, Kya Clark ends up abandoned at the age of six or seven after every single member of her family leaves. The locals have dubbed her as the ‘Marsh Girl’; the poor white girl who lives in the ‘swamp’, who’s only ever been to school once and wears hand-me-down clothing from the black locals.  She learns to integrate herself with nature; she befriends the seagulls, grasps the ebb and flow of the tide, masters the whispers of the shells. It’s both fascinating and heart-achingly lonely.

“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.”

I’ve never read anything like Where The Crawdads Sing; Delia Owens' writing is more straightforward than lyrical. It’s unapologetically honest and sincere, a heartbreaking prose that takes us on a young girl’s coming-of-age journey as she grows up in isolation, with only the comfort of the land and the sea to lean on. The story is told in alternating parts; Kya growing up in the 1950s and the murder of Chase Andrews in 1969. I love how Owens kicked this story off with a murder mystery, but obviously, there's so much more to this story than finding out what really happened to Chase. This book is very character-driven; reading about Kya — young, bright, curious, and formidable — broke my heart. A young child should never be left alone to fend for themselves. The experiences she went through made me want to reach into the book and give her a massive hug and all the love she deserves. There’s a little bit of romance included in the plot, which is somehow linked to Kya being deprived of socialization. Fair warning; there are a couple of aspects in this book that could be triggering (domestic violence, racism, and attempted rape) but they’re all very integral to the storyline. 

Where The Crawdads Sing is a fitting ode to Women's History Month — a story about a young girl who grows up to be a strong, resilient woman in spite of her unfortunate and devastating circumstances as an outcast from society — and our current situation of isolation as a result of a global pandemic. A soon-to-be motion picture starring Normal People’s Daisy Edgar Jones, this brilliant masterpiece is something you shouldn’t miss out on! 


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