“Where The Crawdads Sing” expresses author Delia Owens’ love for nature, for the coming of age story and mystery. Published in 2018 as Owens’ debut novel, it was greeted with highly esteemed praise.
It was the Sept. 2018 pick for Reese’s Book Club, Reese Witherspoon’s official book club that highlights women-driven stories. The book was also adapted into a film that premiered in theaters this past July. It stars actress Daisy Edgar-Jones and features a song written and performed by Taylor Swift titled “Carolina.”
So, knowing the movie was in theaters and knowing the hype surrounding it, I read “Where The Crawdads Sing” this summer. Once I started reading I couldn’t put it down. I loved the way the story intertwines throughout the years bringing it all together at the end.
Set in North Carolina from the 1950s to the 1970s, the book is a dual timeline story. On one side, it follows the life of Kya Clark, and on the other the detectives investigating the murder of town native Chase Andrews.
Kya grows up in the marshes outside of the town of Barkley Cove. Readers follow her as she experiences growing up, womanhood and the interest of two town natives alone in the marsh. However, to the town, she is known as the mysterious “Marsh Girl” and is excluded and taunted when she ventures into town. The story haunts you with the question of who killed Chase, as the evidence is slowly brought forward throughout the novel.
At its core, “Where The Crawdads Sing” is a character study of Kya. She faces the hardships of living on her own and the new challenges of womanhood. Kya learns independence by providing for herself, taking care of her home and hunting for mussels on her own. Due to her time alone in the marsh, she has very little interaction with others.
The readers see her grow through her acquaintance with Jumpin’, the bait and gas store owner, and his wife Mabel. We also watch her relationship with her childhood friend Tate grow and change throughout the years.
This novel also highlights themes of abuse and neglect seen in Kya’s early years as her mother and siblings face abuse from their father. This, in turn, impacts the way Kya grows up and how she views life after her family gradually leaves. The detailed moments into Kya’s mind slowly reveal themselves as crucial to the plot.
The mystery aspect of this book is written very well. Throughout the novel there are time jumps to 1969 when the detectives are looking into the case. It leaves readers guessing as they’re thrown from point to point in the story.
Another enjoyable part of the book was the biology. Owens is a biologist as well as a published author. She spent many years in Africa studying and writing about wildlife. She visited North Carolina frequently as a child and was fascinated by many of the same things as Kya when it comes to nature.
Owens uses beautiful descriptive language throughout the novel to show the marshes, ocean and land of North Carolina. She provides details about birds, plants, weather, insects and more. It not only enhances the story but is part of Kya’s journey as she holds this extensive knowledge as well.
An example of this in the story is when Kya examines female bugs and animals and how they survive on their own. Wildlife presents itself as a character in this novel. Without many people to talk to, a lot of Kya’s life lessons are taken from nature. Kya is an advocate for nature in the book and often fights for the marsh, as most of the characters see it as a wasteland, or look for resources to take from it.
The only critique I have is the court case section toward the end of the book. Owens takes time to cover the case in detail and personally, I thought it took up a lot of page space. If you love court cases and the technicality of a crime scene it’s definitely for you, but it’s just not my thing.
However, I would recommend this book to pretty much anyone. It is a murder mystery, love story, coming of age story and historical fiction, so there’s something for everyone.
So, as Swift sings, will you find out the secrets “that only Carolina will ever know?”