A novel about a young woman determined to make her way in the wilds of North Carolina, and the two men that will break her isolation open.
For years, rumors of the “Marsh Girl” have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. She’s barefoot and wild; unfit for polite society. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark.
But Kya is not what they say. Abandoned at age ten, she has survived on her own in the marsh that she calls home. A born naturalist with just one day of school, she takes life lessons from the land, learning from the false signals of fireflies the real way of this world. But while she could have lived 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.
Where the Crawdads Sing is one of those rare books that I would recommend to almost anybody. Beautifully written and evocative, it is an incredibly unique coming of age story wrapped up inside a compelling murder mystery.
The book is set in North Carolina in the 1950s-1970s. By he age of seven, Kya is abandoned by her entire family and left to live alone in a broken down shack on an isolated marsh. She manages to survive and to evade the school truancy officers by imitating the animals around her and with a little bit of help from the kind-hearted owner of a local gas dock and bait shop.
Kya opens up when two young men take an interest in her as she develops into a beautiful teenager, until, something unthinkable happens. This is where the murder mystery comes into play, so I don’t want to spoil that part for anybody.
Even though the townspeople view Kya as a wild “Marsh Girl” we learn that she is actually sensitive and intelligent young woman. Learning how to read and write as a teenager seems to be very easy for her (perhaps a little bit too easy?) and she spends her entire life observing and collecting incredibly detailed information about the marsh.
The accurate and beautifully written descriptions of the marsh and the animals that lived in it were the strongest and most evocative part of the novel. Delia Owens has spent years writing non-fiction about nature and that is evident throughout. The author has also done a brilliant job of weaving in the Southern feeling and accents. “Magnolia mouth” as one of the characters aptly describes it.
The ending of the book left me feeling so very sad for Kya and angry about all the people in her life who let her down. It’s heartbreaking to imagine such a young and vulnerable child/young woman being abandoned and let down by almost every single person in her life. I was furious when her mother’s story was revealed and I found many of the actions of many of the townspeople to be unforgivable.
Where the Crawdads Sing is one of those stories that I know will stick with me for a long time. The wild and ferocious beauty of the North Carolina marsh where Kya spent her time, the almost unbearable loneliness she experienced, and the questions it raises about the way our society treats our most vulnerable people are all rolled up inside a mystery that will keep you turning the pages way past your bedtime.
About the Author
Delia Owens is the co-author of three internationally bestselling nonfiction books about her life as a wildlife scientist in Africa including Cry of the Kalahari.
She has won the John Burroughs Award for Nature Writing and has been published in Nature, The African Journal of Ecology, and many others.
She currently lives in Idaho. Where the Crawdads Sing is her first novel
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