Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens is a story set in the 1960s that follows two timelines of a girl, Kya Murphy, living alone on the outskirts of town on a marsh in North Carolina. The novel begins with six-year-old Kya witnessing her mother walk out of their run-down house, unbeknownst to her, for the very last time. While Kya grieves her mother abandoning her and her family, she also has to endure the heartbreak of watching her four siblings run away from home one by one as a result of their alcoholic and abusive father. Kya’s once loud and loving home quickly turns dark and lonely until even her father leaves when she is just 10-years-old. With no family or friends to turn to and a community that believes she is “marsh trash” because of the location of her home, Kya has to learn to fend for herself.
Disconnected from society outside of marshland and with no education, Kya devotes herself to the beauties of the marsh. Along her journey she meets life-long friend Tate, a fellow marsh enthusiast and old friend to her brother Jodie, who takes her under his wing and teaches her how to read along with many other subjects. With Tate’s help, Kya is able to expand her knowledge of the marsh and grow her passion and appreciation for it. Not shackled by materialistic wants, I admire Kya’s contentment with what she has. She makes do with no electricity, a run-down house and scarce food because she holds a marsh and the natural world at her fingertips and her satisfaction with that could never be marked by a price.
The author beautifully intertwines Kya’s young and adult life, showing how she evolves from a scared young girl to a confident, brave and intelligent woman. Owens creates great suspense by teasing another story line where an investigation of a murder in the marsh is occurring that leaves Kya as the main suspect because of her place in society, that is all I will disclose for that storyline though for fear of spoiling it for any potential readers.
Having grown up on Cape Cod with the constant surrounding of marshes, ocean and nature, I felt drawn to many aspects of this book because I truly understand Kya’s infatuation with her environment. The book focuses on the beauty and nurturing aspects of nature, and I can strongly relate to this because I have experienced first hand the power that fresh air and salt water holds.
I love how Owens portrayed nature as being Kya’s greatest teacher, as there is no truer lesson than the ones we get from the natural world. “Most of what she knew, she’d learned from the wild. Nature had natured, tutored and protected her when no one else would” Owens writes in Where the Crawdads Sing.
This murder mystery and coming of age novel embraces the beauty and purity of nature and how a scared and abandoned young girl adapts into a wild and inventive woman thriving in marshland. It was refreshing to read a story in the perspective of a girl who is so smart and self-sufficient. I applaud Owens for making Kya’s character so strong and not reliant on anyone but herself, because it is not very often that a female character, especially of her age, is portrayed in such a light. “Standing in the most fragile place of her life, she turned to the only net she knew – herself.” Owens, Where the Crawdads Sing.
The New York Times best seller is set to be made into a movie by Reese Witherspoon’s production company, Hello Sunshine, and is currently in the early stages of production.Where the Crawdads Sing is a fantastic novel that is sure to keep you on your toes. It is motivating, heartwarming and everything in between. A true page turner!