Book Review // Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

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I would have never picked up Where the Crawdads Sing if I just happened to see it randomly placed among a ton of book suggestions. It didn’t have my usual mystery and suspense dripping between the pages. It is more of a coming-of-age story with a murder mixed in and at first glance it didn’t wet my reading appetite. The more I perused the Reese Witherspoon x Hello Sunshine Book Club and followed others reading the book, I dialed in a bit more to Delia Owens’ first novel and I fell in love.

Most of what she knew, she’d learned from the wild. Nature had nurtured, tutored, and protected her when no one else would.

Young Kya, abandoned by her family in North Carolina marshlands is left to her own devices to raise herself. The town has turned their backs to this little girl know as the “marsh girl,” yet Kya keeps her wits about her and learns to raise herself through her memories of her Ma, brother Jody, and even her abusive Pa. Intertwined with raising herself, Kya gains help and guidance along the way from Jumpin’ and Mabel, and the boy that Kya falls in love with, Tate.  

Through love with Tate, Kya will also experience heartbreak, and as she grows older, a more dark love with another man, Chase. It is Chase’s murder that brings the town to an uproar and they finally will have to face the marsh girl that everyone long ago abandoned.

As I read Where the Crawdads Sing, it really is a coming-of-age story about Kya; her resourcefulness to raise herself, living off the marsh, and building a life that is hers. The murder is almost a sidestory giving us another glimpse into Kya’s life and the span to which she has learned.

Kya laid her hand upon the breathing, wet earth, and the marsh became her mother.

There are some uncomfortable topics pertaining to abuse and race that are part of the book as the story of Kya takes place mostly in the 1950’s and 1960’s. These are points that as a reader you will need to move through to understand the beauty that is Where the Crawdads Sing. And yes, it is a beautiful story that in my opinion, more readers will lean to loving than not.

Another opinion, I really think listening to the audio book helped bring this story alive. I don’t know if I would have found it as enticing of a read if I didn’t listen and hear the pain, anguish, or triumphs and successes of the marsh girl. Depth of the reading may have been lost without hearing the positives and negatives of the characters. Don’t get me wrong, I read most of my murder and mystery, but there are occasions where listening to the pitch or throaty sound of a voice will make the story live, and this is definitely one of those occasions.

I’m glad I didn’t listen to myself when I was leaning towards not reading. I stepped away from my usual reading and so glad that I did! Well, I’m glad I listened to Reese! This definitely deserves (if not more) 5/5 stars!

Delia Owens is the co-author of three internationally bestselling nonfiction books about her life as a wildlife scientist in Africa—Cry of the Kalahari, The Eye of the Elephant, and Secrets of the Savanna. She has won the John Burroughs Award for Nature Writing and has been published in Nature, The African Journal of Ecology, and International Wildlife, among many others. She currently lives in Idaho, where she continues her support for the people and wildlife of Zambia. Where the Crawdads Sing is her first novel.

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