Where the Crawdads Sing…
About the Book:
Fans of Barbara Kingsolver will love this stunning debut novel from a New York Times bestselling nature writer, about an unforgettable 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, rumours 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. 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.
In Where the Crawdads Sing, Owens juxtaposes an exquisite ode to the natural world against a heartbreaking coming of age story and a surprising murder investigation. Thought-provoking, wise, and deeply moving, Owens’s debut novel reminds us that we are forever shaped by the children we once were, and that we are all subject to the beautiful and violent secrets that nature keeps.
‘She feels the pulse of life, he thought, because there are no layers between her and her planet.’
Where the Crawdads Sing may be the first novel that Delia Owens has written, but she is not a novice when it comes to writing. A renowned nature writer, Delia brings the wild marshlands of North Carolina to life with vivid detail within a painfully beautiful story about loss and isolation.
‘Within all the worlds of biology, she searched for an explanation of why a mother would leave her offspring.’
When Kya was six years old, her mother packed a suitcase and walked away from her five children, leaving them to live in an isolated shack in the wild marshlands of North Carolina with a violent alcoholic father. Ranging in age from six to seventeen, Kya’s siblings rapidly run away after their mother’s departure, leaving her alone with her father. Over time, he too disappears, and Kya is left to fend for herself as a small child. In what is both incredible and devastating, Kya makes it to adulthood, living as one with her surrounds, shunned by the townsfolk, with only a very few people reaching out to help her. As well as being stunned by the beauty of this novel, I was also deeply angry at adults that are able to wholly disregard a child in such a way. Fortunately, later in the novel, Kya is offered a reason for her mother having never returned, but she refuses to excuse her behaviour. My appreciation for this was immeasurable. I am a little tired of authors who frame neglect and abuse as actions that can be excused with everyone forgiving each other and living happily ever after. Yes, sometimes people are in situations where they need to leave, but to leave your children, to never come back. For the extended family of the person who left to never seek out the children who were left behind. It’s inexcusable, and Delia Owens paints this picture well. Kya is deeply damaged by the abandonment of every member of her family and this, along with her utter isolation, makes her incredibly vulnerable.
‘You can’t tell anybody. You know you can’t tell the sheriff or anybody. They’d drag me into the sheriff’s office and make me describe what happened to a bunch of men. I can’t live through that.’
Over time, two men make an indelible mark upon Kya. Each have loved her in their own way, both have disappointed her, and one ends up dead. The investigation into the death of Chase Andrews morphs into a murder investigation with Kya as the prime suspect. As we read all about Kya’s life from the age of six, time eventually balances out when we catch up to the murder investigation, and from this point, the story moves forward via the murder trial. The trial is an absurd series of circumstantial evidence and theories ground in prejudice. It makes you wonder how many people over time have fallen victim to such a flawed system, particularly those labelled as different and therefore more vulnerable and more in need of protective justice.
‘She knew the years of isolation had altered her behaviour until she was different from others, but it wasn’t her fault she’d been alone. Most of what she knew, she’d learned from the wild. Nature had nurtured, tutored, and protected her when no one else would. If consequences resulted from her behaving differently, then they too were functions of life’s fundamental core.’
Where the Crawdads Sing is an exceptional novel. It’s deeply moving, an intricate examination of the connection between a person and the environment they are isolated within. Survival is the sun that all else orbits around. Not just Kya’s survival within the marshlands, but the way in which all humans strive to survive in the manner they see fit for themselves, no matter the cost to others. Betrayal, abandonment, rejection, prejudice – all just stepping stones to a greater existence for each individual. This is an intelligent and intuitive novel that I honestly can’t recommend highly enough. The themes are presently relevant and the content is about as thought provoking as you can get. The ending made me smile with satisfaction.
‘Let’s face it, a lot of times love doesn’t work out. Yet even when it fails, it connects you to others and, in the end, that is all you have, the connections.’
Thanks is extended to Hachette Australia for providing me with a copy of Where the Crawdads Sing for review.
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.
Where the Crawdads Sing
Published by Hachette Australia (Imprint – Corsair)
Released December 2018