Rating: 5 stars.
Where the Crawdads Sing follows the story of Kya, a young girl abandoned to the North Carolina Marsh, intertwined with the case of Chase Andrews, a promising young man from the local town found dead in a swamp.
“Marsh is not swamp. Marsh is a space of light, where grass grows in water, and water flows into the sky. Slow-moving creeks wander, carrying the orb of the sun with them to the sea, and long legged birds lift with unexpected grace – as though not built to fly – against the roar of a thousand snow geese.”
I knew from the very first page that I was going to love this book. Delia Owens’ words flow across the page, effortless and beautiful, like poetry. Her imagery is vivid, stunning and utterly immersive, showing the North Carolina marshlands in a way that it’s never been seen before; full of life and beauty. A tangible, breathing thing that becomes a character in it’s own right.
We see the marsh through the eyes of Kya, a girl abandoned by her family at a very young age, forced to fend for herself and fight for survival. She learns from the wildlife around her, her only constant in a life of abandonment; hiding in the brush to avoid truant officers and predatory men, collecting mussels and fish to sell to Jumpin’ for money and supplies, navigating the intricate channels and endless estuaries that braid through the thickets of trees like a maze of waterways.
“Most of what she knew, she’d learned from the wild. Nature had nurtured, tutored, and protected her when no one else would.”
Kya is lonely, the only comfort and company she finds in the slow moving creeks, the oaks and pines, the layers of life that live in the marsh; the gulls, the clicking cicadas, the squiggly sand crabs and dancing porpoises. But she aches for human interaction, desperate to hear someone’s voice, presence, touch.
Amongst the palmettos and the green lagoons, Kya blossoms into a remarkable beauty, attracting the attention of boys from the local town. First Tate, the son of a local fisherman with a shared interest in marsh creatures and biology. Then Chase, the local-good-looking-jock type who promises Kya the world then brags of his conquests. Desperate for human company, Kya grabs the opportunity to make friends with both hands, but soon discovers the price of letting people in.
“Kya remembered, those many years ago, Ma warning her older sisters about young men who overrevved their rusted-out pickups or drove jalopies around with radios blaring. “Unworthy boys make a lot of noise,” Ma had said. She read a consolation for females. Nature is audacious enough to ensure that the males who send out dishonest signals or go from one female to the next almost always end up alone.”
When Chase is found dead at the bottom of the fire tower, speculation rips through Barkley Cove like a dark and dangerous undertow, threatening to pull Kya under and destroy her. In a to-kill-a-mockingbird-esque court case Kya is put on trial, but so is the bias and prejudice of the townspeople. A town that didn’t help an abandoned little girl surviving on her own in a swamp, cold and hungry. A town that rejected her because she was different, calling her the missing link between ape and man, turning their backs on a helpless child for reasons beyond her control.
“His dad had told him many times that the definition of a real man is one who cries without shame, reads poetry with his heart, feels opera in his soul, and does what’s necessary to defend a woman.”
Owens’ cleverly written dialogue and striking imagery truly bring the characters and the story to life in a way that hooks you from the very first page. A devastatingly beautiful story. This book is a treasure trove of important life lessons and a must read!