Where the Crawdads Sing
By Delia Owens, A coming-of-age crime drama about a girl growing up alone in the marshes of North Carolina
The story focuses thematically a lot on her status as an outcast and sense of abandonment, as she is forced to fend for herself. In terms of pacing, it is eventful and mostly fast-moving. Kya’s story has elements of romance, mystery and even a courtroom thriller interlude.
Nature enthusiasts will also enjoy this book, as Kya’s love of the nature around her is conveyed through detailed descriptions of the flora and fauna, a reflection of the author’s background as a former wildlife scientist.
The compelling imagery is descriptive in the right places and sparse when it serves the story better instead. The book has a strong sense of place, transporting you to a different life where you can smell the salty air and sink your feet into the muddy grounds outside the seaside village.
Some Criticisms As she heads into her teenage years, the romantic storylines start kicking in, and the melodrama starts ramping up as well. My enthusiasm waned a little bit at this point. The book is increasingly divorced from reality (the idea that a teenage boy would teach her not only to read but about her period seemed far-fetched, and it goes on from there) and plot events get a bit contrived.
Additionally, Kya’s internal journey, her mentally processing the events of her life, felt a little surface level. She struggles with being abandoned by her mother, and the book brings in interesting parallels to nature, but beyond that, events simply happen without much reflection. It felt like there were a number of missed opportunity for it to be a more insightful book.
Kya’s story is interspersed with flash-forwards detailing the progress of the Chase Andrews investigation. I found this worked well, adding an element of mystery to the story as it’s not clear how it will play out for Kya or what exactly happened that night.
Read it or Skip It? I read this book quickly and found myself delighted by it by the end. The book is more melodrama than a serious literary novel, but is such an engaging story that it’s easy to accept. It’s part romance, mystery, courtroom drama and ode to nature, all of which make for an appealing tale about the town outcast.
The setting is a distinctive “slice-of-life” that’s commonplace, yet not often portrayed clearly in books or movies. It is vividly drawn in a way that infuses the story with energy, a credit to Owen’s genuine love and respect for nature.
Where the Crawdads Sing has been very popular among book clubs, and deservedly so. It’s eventful and accessible, but thoughtfully written, all of which make it a good choice for readers of varying tastes.