Where the Crawdads Sing
Author: Delia Owens
Over the last few months, I saw this book everywhere. A friend took it on a trip and loved reading it. It’s a New York Times Bestseller, a Reese’s (Witherspoon) Book Club selection, and it got 4.52 stars on Goodreads. After all the good reviews, I had to find out what was so special about this novel.
The narrative is told in two alternating parts, one in the 1950s, the other in the late 1960s and 1970. There’s a mystery, a murder, a love story, and even a few poems, all in under 400 pages. The main characters are fully developed; they have flaws, and they are clearly described, so I didn’t get confused and could concentrate on the story itself.
Kya, the main character, grows up and lives in the same cabin all her life on the rural eastern shore of North Carolina. She is alone most of the time, doesn’t interact with the locals of Barkley Cove, and doesn’t even go to school. When they do see her, most of the local children bully and make fun of her, and on the few occasions when she interacts with adults, most ridicule her and call her Marsh Girl. So, Kya spends her life with only a small boat for transportation, learning to understand and paint the local birds, animals and insects near the coastline just outside her cabin.
The plot moves along at a good pace in most places. I always wanted to find out why Kya’s mother had just walked away that one fateful day. And I was curious to follow the investigation of the murder that is discovered in the first chapter. Sad as it was reading about Kya being left alone at an early age, it was interesting to see how she learned to fend for herself and even learned to read. Following Kya’s curious, solitary life as she matures into a woman kept me reading to see how she would manage as an adult with no formal education. Throughout her life, as Kya grew up by herself using her own ingenuity and self-reliance, she also learned, sometimes the hard way, when it was safe to trust others.
The writing in this novel is very good, and Owens employs literary devices to great advantage. She does spend time describing the natural habitat, but her imagery and descriptions of the natural world Kya inhabits are outstanding. I understood the reason why when I realized that, although this may be her first novel, the author is an acclaimed nonfiction science writer and has a B.S. in Zoology and a Ph.D. in Animal Behavior.
I hope this first novel is just the beginning of Delia Owens’ second career as a successful fiction writer. If you’re looking for a good read for a book group, for pleasure now that the kids are back in school, or just for enjoyment, give this one a try.