If you’re a lover of reading, it’s relatively easy to find books to enjoy. But, once in a while, when you stumble across something exceptional — you’re reminded what an all-consuming and emotional experience reading can truly be. And how much you can love a fictional protagonist. This is one of those books. And everyone I’ve talked to who has read it, feels the same way. Five stars on Goodreads simply doesn’t say enough.
So let me include this quote from THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW
“A painfully beautiful first novel that is at once a murder mystery, a coming-of-age narrative and a celebration of nature…. Owens here surveys the desolate marshlands of the North Carolina coast through the eyes of an abandoned child. And in her isolation that child makes us open our own eyes to the secret wonders — and dangers — of her private world.”
WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING will transport you to another world, with powerfully poetic language describing a natural world you’ll wish you could experience. Descriptions are almost tactile in their richness.
Then, on top, add a suspenseful story about a remarkable child. A real page-turner that has it all – drama, surprises, human truths, pathos, suspense, diverse and believable characters, a surprising plot and finally, even true love.
The central character is Kya, a child known to the locals as the “marsh girl”. She is growing up in a remote marsh area along the North Carolina coast near the quiet fishing village of Barkley Cove. Kya’s family is desperately poor, her father a bitter drunkard, her mother profoundly disappointed in life, and her much older brothers and sisters preoccupied.
So Kya looks for comfort and company in nature and begins building a world apart from other humans. Her friends are the gulls and she becomes absorbed in watching the behavior of insects, observing different types of shells and swamp grasses, and learning to read the changing tides.
When the book begins, Kya is just six years old. And most of the book walks with her as she grows into a woman in her mid-twenties. Along the way, she manages to avoid formal education, reckons with the mysteries of her changing body, and wrestles with a growing desire for human connection that flies in the face of her deep distrust of others.
I don’t want to risk spoilers so I am intentionally steering clear of details. But as great hardships unfold in her life, Kya draws on astonishing inner resources to cope with the kind of horrors most of us don’t even like to imagine. And she actually thrives in her life of isolation, in large part because of her strong personal connection to the natural world.
That is, until Kya, despite her chosen life of isolation, is unable to keep other people at bay. When a suspicious death occurs, the town’s entire population must begin to weigh deeply-ingrained prejudices and assumptions against facts and evidence. And author Delia Owens skillfully explores some of our most primitive human drives: our inclination to shun the “other”, the complexities involved in trusting one another, and our deep need for human connection and love.
Though my description may make the book sound remote, even dry, it is anything but. As I approached the final pages of the book, I found I kept taking breaks, so I could put off finishing.
I promise you will cry multiple times. And that you will finish this novel loving Kya’s intelligence, spunk and resiliency. She is the kind of character you will remember for a lifetime. Don’t miss this one!
More about the nature writer, Delia Owens. This is her debut novel, though she has written other NON-fiction books about the natural world.
FYI: Actress Reese Witherspoon has already begun turning this book into a movie.