Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens recently soared to the top of the New York Times Best Seller list, and after reading it last weekend, I understand why it’s attained that stature and why others are so captivated by this unforgettable story. Using exquisite prose, Delia Owens vibrantly describes the environmental beauty and vibrancy of North Carolina’s remote Outer Banks marshlands. I loved so many of the observations of the main character, Kya: “Autumn leaves don’t fall, they fly. They take their time and wander on this their only chance to soar.” The smells and visuals of wildlife almost become a living character in this truly compelling story about abandonment, belonging, and redemptive love. Perhaps this one is destined to be a new American classic, reminiscent, in parts, of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, and Gene Stratton-Porter’s, A Girl of the Timberlost. It mesmerized me, hook, line and sinker!
Catherine Danielle Clark, known as Kya, is the youngest of five children, all born in a crumbled-down shack into a life of impoverishment. Their mother eventually leaves when Kya is only six years old and one by one, each of her siblings follow suit, abandoning her to her neglectful, abusive, alcoholic father who also eventually takes to the road. She becomes the target of harassment within a community that shuns her. Kya is dirty, hungry and alone, but learns to survive on her own around the waterways, far away from school and the town folk’s cruelty, calling her names like “Marsh Girl,” “Marsh Trash,” and “Wild Child.” No one, other than Jumpin’ and his wife, Mabel, and Tate, a childhood friend, offers help or advice to the lonely girl.
At 14 years old, Kya eventually learns to read and as she’s learning says, “I wasn’t aware that words could hold so much. I didn’t know a sentence could be so full.” It’s the botany books her mother left behind that astonish her the most, reaching the point of learning the Latin names of most flora and fauna. Overtime, Kya has become a famous naturalist painter, writer and collector.
Kya has also become a very beautiful, smart young woman who draws unwanted attention from the townie boys who spy on her, and this is where the pages start to really turn fast. There’s a murder. Local football legend, Chase Andrews is found dead. Rumors swirl as to motive and possible suspects. There’s a police investigation. A trial ensues and some twists and turns I didn’t see coming. Seek out Where the Crawdads Sing. I hope you find it to be as satisfying as I did.
Review by Carol McFadden, the head of the Children’s Room.
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