Title: Where The Crawdads Sing
Author: Delia Owens
Publisher: Little, Brown and Co.
Publication Date: January 17th 2019
Rating: 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟
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.
Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for providing me with an advance reading copy in exchange for an honest review!
On the surface, Where The Crawdads Sing is a haunting tale of love, loss and loneliness. But buried deep within the heart of the novel is an unforgettable story of resilience, strength and survival. Kya Clark is only six years old when she is abandoned by her mother – and shortly after, her older siblings – to be left alone with her often absent, drunken and abusive father deep in the marsh of the North Carolina coast.
The narrative is for the most part a coming-of-age story. Despite the slow pacing, there was something really haunting and also liberating about following Kya’s journey from childhood to womanhood. I couldn’t help but feel heart-broken for the young girl who was not only abandoned by her parents and her siblings but also the education system and the entire town of Barkley Cove. And yet, Kya always had the Marsh to turn to – as a friend, a teacher and a mother. Through the vivid descriptions of the wilderness, the Marsh becomes a prominent character within the novel; and with Mother Nature’s instinctual need to nurture and protect, Kya is able to blossom into the strong, resilient and gentle woman that she is.
Yet, at the same time, she is still vulnerable to the flaws of human nature. On the rare occasion that she visits Barkley Cove, Kya becomes the ‘Marsh Girl’ in a town full of folks who have always viewed her – barefoot and wild – as belonging to another world. But is she only different because they chose to exclude her or did they choose to exclude her because she was always different?
But, not everyone in the town is so prejudiced. Jumpin’ and Mabel are able to shower Kya with utmost kindness and friendship, having been subject to racism and prejudice of their own. And Tate, despite his flaws, was so soft and gentle and kind. From an act as small as gifting Kya a feather for her growing collection to teaching her how to read and helping her to publish her novels, it was incredibly easy to overlook the fact that he also abandoned her when she needed him the most. And it was so easy to forgive Tate when you read about Chase.
Partly narrated as a murder mystery, the novel weaves Kya’s story together with the death of Chase Andrews, and both timelines come together near the end of the novel for a highly gripping conclusion. For Barkley Cove, who have always idolised Chase enough to overlook the rumours of his romance with the ‘Marsh Girl,’ Kya is the immediate suspect in the aftermath of his death. It was incredibly heart-breaking being witness to her trial knowing she would never get justice for a crime she didn’t commit – or did she?
Without the Marsh there to guide her but surrounded by a family of newfound friends, it was also heart-warming to know that she wouldn’t have to go through it all alone. Like a fully-fledged creature leaving her mother’s nest for the very first time, Kya’s survival of the courtroom is symbolic of her independence and her readiness to take on the harsh realities of the outside world.