Official Synopsis from Goodreads: 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.
Perfect for fans of Barbara Kingsolver and Karen Russell, Where the Crawdads Sing is at once an exquisite ode to the natural world, a heartbreaking coming-of-age story, and a surprising tale of possible murder. Owens reminds us that we are forever shaped by the children we once were, and that we are all subject to the beautiful and violent secrets that nature keeps.
Genre: Historical Fiction
Setting: the North Carolina coast: 1952-1970
My Copy Came From: I purchased the hardback from my local bookstore, Copperfield’s.
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Review: Atmospheric, lonely, and entrancing. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens has a lot of hype surrounding it. Chosen as a Reese Witherspoon Book Club pick, this read has a lot of people talking and I’d heard nothing but good things going into the read. I found it to live up to the hype. It’s quite a different read, as it focuses on Kya, who lives a solitary life in the marsh on the North Carolina coast.
“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,” Kya whispered with a slight edge.
The book starts out as Kya’s mother leaves her, her brother Jodie, and her father. Kya is six years old at this time. Her brother leaves shortly afterwards, and then a little later on her father also leaves. So Kya is left alone in the marsh to survive. And survive she does! We read as Kya learns how to cook, and how she finds food and learns how to trade for gas and other necessary supplies.
Months passed, winter easing gently into place, as southern winters do. The sun, warm as a blanket, wrapped Kya’s shoulders, coaxing her deeper into the marsh. Sometimes she heard night-sounds she didn’t know or jumped from lightning too close, but whenever she stumbled, it was the land that caught her. Until at last, at some unclaimed moment, the heart-pain seeped away like water into sand. Still there, but deep. Kya laid her hand upon the breathing, wet earth, and the marsh became her mother.
The book jumps around between Kya growing up in the 50s, and a murder that takes place in 1969. As the two timelines close in on each other, we learn more about Kya’s strength and just how much the townspeople dislike her. I liked this back and forth in time. It worked well here, and brought enough interest into the mystery of Chase’s death. Was he murdered? Or was it an accident? I actually preferred the sections investigating the death, as they pushed the story along. As Kya grows up, those sections mainly involve descriptions of the marsh, and contain minimal dialogue. These sections were quite atmospheric and really help to set the scene and explain why Kya loves the marsh so much, but they also were fairly slow. These scenes that were all about the marsh and nature really reminded me of Barbara Kingsolver’s works, and so I think Kingsolver fans may really love this book. It also somewhat reminded me of Sue Monk Kidd’s The Mermaid Chair, so if you’re a fan of that, you’ll probably enjoy this!
Slowly, she unraveled each word of the sentence: “ ‘There are some who can live without wild things, and some who cannot.’ ”
“Oh,” she said. “Oh.”
“You can read, Kya. There will never be a time again when you can’t read.”
“It ain’t just that.” She spoke almost in a whisper. “I wadn’t aware that words could hold so much. I didn’t know a sentence could be so full.”
He smiled. “That’s a very good sentence. Not all words hold that much.”
I didn’t love it as much as everyone else seems to, but I couldn’t put it down, as the mystery kept pulling me along. Where the Crawdads Sing has one of those “must discuss with someone!” endings, and so this would make an excellent book club choice as you’ll want to discuss the ending with someone as soon as you finish this! The characters all make decisions worth discussing, so there’s a lot here for a good book club discussion.
Bottom Line: Atmospheric with an ending worthy of discussion!