Book Review: Where the Crawdads Sing, Delia Owens
Fiction: Where the Crawdads Sing, Delia Owens
Kya is just a child when her mother leaves the family. In the years that follow, her brothers and sisters also go, all of them driven away by her drunk and abusive father. Finally, her father disappears as well, and Kya is left by herself in the swamps of North Carolina. She has learned how to cook and clean, how to gather mussels which she can sell for cash, and how to fend for herself. And she does. She hides when the truant officer comes for her, she relies on the kindness of a local African American family, and she lives by herself in the swamp.
Kya’s life is changed by two local boys who take an interest in her. Tate teaches her to read and fosters her love for science and nature. Chase…has other interests. Many years later when Chase is found dead, the nature of his relationship with “the Marsh Girl” becomes the subject of investigation.
The story of how Kya grew up, her relationship with Tate and Chase, and the investigation into Chase’s death form the bones of the novel Where the Crawdads Sing. But the beauty of this book is in the prose. Delia Owens story is…improbable. But it is beautiful. Kya is an incredible protagonist. (Maybe too smart to be believed.) Accepting a girl growing up essentially by herself in a southern swamp and becoming largely self-educated is asking a lot from the reader. Owens packages the request, though, in beautiful descriptions of the marsh and the swamp, the shells and feathers Kya collects, the descriptions of Kya herself and her shack, and the people she allows into her life. Her prose is poetic, especially when she includes poems written for the book. Even when the plot becomes a bit far fetched, the words beg to be read and I could not resist.
It’s easy to see why Where the Crawdads Sing has become a bestseller. It is not a perfect book, but it is a beautiful book with a memorable protagonist, a fantastic ending, and amazing prose. Many readers will thoroughly enjoy it for those very good reasons.