Book Review of Where the Crawdads Sing

Synopsis: A coming-of-age, mystery, heartbreaking love and nature story.

A young girl, Catherine Danielle Clark, (Kya) experiences painful loss as one-by-one her family leaves her alone in the marsh—first her mother, then her brother, Jodie, and finally her drunk father. Known as the “marsh girl” by the townsfolk, Kya learns about the marsh, while befriending Jumpin’, a black man who runs a little store and sells gas on the marsh, his wife, and Tate, who teaches her to read. With their help, Kya grows into a beautiful young woman, afraid of abandonment while at the same time, desiring company and love.

Her wild, raw beauty entrances two boys from town, and she opens herself up to each in her own way. Then the ex-all-star football player, Chase Andrews is found dead. As the town mourns the death of one of its favorites, Kya is the perfect suspect for justice.

“The morning burned so August-hot, the marsh’s moist breath hung the oaks and pines with fog.”

I’ll admit that I don’t normally read highly publicized books so near to their publication date, but for some reason this book kept coming back to me in book searches. The title itself is poetic, so I gave in and bought it. Is it a perfect book? No, it has its flaws, but none extreme enough to lower its standards. The writing, characters, and story drew me in, and when I finally put it down, I had this feeling of delight. I mean…how can you dislike a story that teaches you about nature, while at the same time weaves such teachings into all aspects of the book.

Delia Owens created a character atmosphere so foreign to me yet, beloved. Not only did she do it with the characters, but also with the marsh—having a life of its own—it became another character. Plus, the descriptions of the marsh are so vivid due to Owens’s own credentials from a Bachelor of Science in zoology, and a Ph.D. in Animal Behavior.

“A dark-clearing—one of her favorite places—spread cavernlike under five oaks so dense only hazy streams of sunlight filtered through the canopy, striking lush patches of trillium and white violets.”

Ahhh! I got to grow in the marsh alongside Kya. She taught me about the herons, who relied on her. About fireflies, who change their flickering light pattern to lure in the males and then kill them, and that praying mantis eat their partners while still mating.

“As always, the ocean seemed angrier than the marsh. Deeper, it had more to say.”

Because the writing and story was anything but normal to me, I could put aside the lack of trial suspense, missing explanations, an implausible murder plot, and a rushed ending. To some people, this might be too off putting. For me, the trial and murder were just small parts of the story. The story is much bigger than the murder. It is much bigger than the trial. The story IS Kya and the marsh. It is a coming-of-age story of a forgotten girl and her marsh life; her battle between companionship and the solitude with nature.

“But loneliness has a compass of its own.”

Anyone who has ever written a book understands how difficult it is to get the craft of writing to fall into place. Owens is 70-years old and this is her first fictional novel. This story has so many layers within the characters and plot, much more than All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, which won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. Owens not only conquers the intricacies of nature, but she also keeps the reader engrossed with southern charm and Kya’s survival. Her writing is captivating, to say the least.

“Could hold his likker like a rain barrel.”

I highly recommend Where the Crawdads Sing. Since I am a huge fan of popcorn, I give this…

Southern novel with poetic nature,
Denise