Book Review – Where the Crawdads Sing

Sometimes I take a break from my usual fantasy and science fiction genre books to read something more mainstream. Several people had recommended Where the Crawdads Sing (paid link) by Delia Owens to me. When a copy was passed along to me, I figured it would make for some good vacation reading.

I read this in paperback.

Here is the blurb:

For years, rumors of the “Marsh Girl” haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet fishing village. Kya Clark is barefoot and wild; unfit for polite society. So in late 1969, when the popular Chase Andrews is found dead, locals immediately suspect her.

But Kya is not what they say. A born naturalist with just one day of school, she takes life’s lessons from the land, learning the real ways of the world from the dishonest signals of fireflies. But while she has the skills to live 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 profound coming of age story and haunting mystery. Thought-provoking, wise, and deeply moving, Owens’s debut novel reminds us that we are forever shaped by the child within us, while also subject to the beautiful and violent secrets that nature keeps.

The story asks how isolation influences the behavior of a young woman, who like all of us, has the genetic propensity to belong to a group. The clues to the mystery are brushed into the lush habitat and natural histories of its wild creatures.

This book drew me in immediately with both a sympathetic main character in Kya (who is abandoned by her mother and usually ignored and sometimes abused by her father), alternating with a murder mystery set at a later date. It is clear that these two stories will intersect, but even toward the end I was left guessing about the details until nearly the last page.

Kya is deeply in tune with nature in her surrounding marsh in North Carolina, feeling closer to the gulls and marsh grasses than she is to people. However, that doesn’t completely prevent her from seeking out companionship, leading to the conflicts within her tale. Even though Kya is alone for many scenes, the story is never dull.

Where the Crawdads Sing is a coming of age tale, a romance, a book about nature and the environment, and a story about isolation, prejudice, and belonging. While it wasn’t science fiction or fantasy, I really enjoyed this one and would recommend it for anyone who is looking for well-written prose, compelling characters, and a journey through our natural world.

Have you read this book or seen the recent movie (paid link)? I’m planning to watch it in the next week or two. Let me know in the comments (above).

Find more of my reviews here.

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