Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens 5 ⭐ Review

Publication Date: 14 August 2018

Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons

Genre: Literary Fiction

Pages: 384

I love finding my five-star reads of the year, of which there are usually only a few. Last month I read Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens and enjoyed reading every page. It is so well-written, with strong characters and a vivid setting that comes alive.

The story begins in 1952. Kya, only six years old, watches her mother leave and never come back. One by one, the rest of her family desert her, until it is just Kya on her own, her company the gulls and the swampy marsh. It’s all Kya knows as she fights to survive on her land, ignoring the locals in town who label her the “Marsh Girl” and force her out of society. Eventually she falls in love with Tate, a boy from town, and then Chase, who we learn has died at the beginning of the book. There are chapters in the present, 1969, of two detectives piecing together his murder, and following the clues that lead to Kya.

While there’s a mystery in the book, what I like most about Where the Crawdads Sing is the character of Kya. Delia Owens naturally crafted this innocent yet strong-willed young girl and as a reader I really wanted her to succeed. She experiences many setbacks, but also has small victories, and as the story progressed I grew very attached to her. Kya is a lonely soul with a simple dream: to be loved and cared for. Too many people in her life let her down and I could really feel her emotions and distrust for people.

A big part of the writing is focused on the setting, which is the fictional town of Barkley Cove in North Carolina. Kya lives on the marsh, which admittedly I had to google to find out what that means. A “marsh” is land covered in water due to a lack of drainage or high tides, and therefore is constantly waterlogged. Her house is an old shack, meant for somewhere to stay during a fishing trip. She becomes accustomed to travel via boat and makes up names for the species of birds around her because she never learned how to read.

I appreciate the effort Delia Owens put into researching the area. She’s from North Carolina and is a wildlife scientist/zoologist. Her knowledge of nature, birds and sea life is evident and I never once questioned an aspect of the story, as it was put together so well. Although I can’t say the story is 100 percent “believable”, it’s an astounding fictional piece that left me wanting more.

There were two scenes in the book that made me cry. One involved a cat, capturing just how truly isolated Kya was:

Afraid to move, she sat stiff until her leg cramped, then shifted slightly to stretch her muscles. Sunday Justice, without opening his eyes, slid off her lap and curled up next to her side. She lay down fully clothed, and they both nestled in. She watched him sleep, then followed. Not falling toward a jolt, but a drifting, finally, into an empty calm.

Once during the night, she opened her eyes and watched him sleeping on his back, forepaws stretched one way, hind paws the other. But when she awoke at dawn, he was gone. A moan struggled against the strength of her throat.

The mystery comes into the story about halfway through the book. About a third is devoted to it. The backstory of Kya’s life is so important and necessary in understanding how deeply her isolation affected her. The ending really surprised me, and made me consider the events of the story in a new light.

I am very excited for the movie to come out. In Australia, it will be released on 21 July 2022. I am intrigued to see if the filmmakers were able to portray Kya similarly to how she was in the book. I think Daisy Edgar-Jones was a good casting choice and I hope she pulls it off!

Fun fact: This is my first book review since September 2019.

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