Book review - Where the Crawdads Sing; a novel by Delia Owens

By Suzanne Gougherty |  

This NYT bestselling novel is set in the mid-sixties in a marsh outside of a fictional small town of Barkley Clove, North Carolina. A young girl is abandoned over time by her family members as they each disappear from the small shack that had no heat, water, or the bare necessities of life.  After a short time, Kya realizes that she is alone, isolated, without food, money, barely clothes on her back, and only a small boat at her disposal. She quickly reckons with the fact that she has to be her own person and make do for herself - that no one was returning.  The marsh is the only place she knows.

Kya sets out in her boat daily to discover the natural beauty of the marsh and its creatures: herons, eagles, shells, bird feathers, and other organic life that only a few people are aware of. Thus begins her collection of marsh specimens and a self-taught education on the marsh, receiving help from an understanding male friend who has similar interests.  One of her few connections to other people.

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Aside from the natural world, the story develops around Kya and her rugged life and how she becomes known in town as "The Marsh Girl." The story is intertwined with small town societal class systems where everyone has their place. It includes love, murder, courtroom drama, and the unlikely black couple that help Kya becomes a self-sustaining person. 

Her life is beyond hard. She has to endure torment and discrimination from the town folk; she has to figure out how to deal with matters of the heart as she matures into a woman.  The author spins all these topics into a book that is a classic page-turner, with an ending that will leave you fulfilled.

There were however a few points about the book that made me feel that the author was not in touch with the times when she put pen to paper; for example, the two young adult boys that enter into Kya's life were named Tate and Chase. These names were not trendy in the 60’s.

It also seems unlikely that Kya would have been able to publish books without even a high school education.  Maybe writing poetry about what she observed in nature would have been more believable.  Regardless, it was an enjoyable read.

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