Review – Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

Where the Crawdads Sing by New York Times bestselling author, Delia Owens, offers up a delightful mix of fiction genres in the pages of the author’s debut book as a solo writer. The novel prologue reveals a prominent citizen of Barkley Cove, Chase Andrews, dead and face down in a swamp. The author is quick to explain the difference in swamp and marsh.

The coastal marsh of North Carolina is the main setting for the story of six-year-old Kya Clark. In 1952, the sound of a slammed screen door changed her young life. Kya looked out the door in time to see her ma walking away. Following Ma’s example Kya’s oldest brother and two sisters left leaving Kya alone with her alcoholic pa and her brother Jodie. When Jodie told Kya he was leaving, she was left with one question. Why did every body leave, yet nobody thought of taking her? She knew Pa’s drunken beatings and rampages ran the family off. But, where could she run? She’s only six.

The story weaves back and forth beginning with the death of Chase Andrews in 1969, and falling back to 1952. The murder and investigation keep 1969 in focus as local law enforcement struggles to piece together the mystery of the swamp. The author entwines the remaining chapters around the man’s death and Kya’s life.

In the marsh, Kya is isolated from the towns people, and schooling, and commerce. Her ability to survive is instinctive. Her skills grow through trial and error. Kya adores the creatures which bring life to her marsh. She collects feathers and shells as evidence of these creatures. When someone leaves her a feather in a tree stump, a game begins. These gifts of nature are swapped between the unknown benefactor and the intrigued young girl. Bound my nature, the swamp, and mutual attraction Tate, teaches Kya to read, write, and do numbers. Their courtship breaks up, when Tate goes away to college. Though he promises to return, the romance is not salvageable when he does.

While Tate is away, Kya meets Chase Andrews. Chase is all about visiting the marsh to see Kya. Now a young woman, Kya rejects Chase’s advances. She questions his motives concerning her. His explanations are vague and sprinkled with promises of meeting his parents and marriage. His moves are relentless. Chase convinces Kya to go on a business trip with him to Charlotte. In a seedy shared motel room, Chase tells Kya, “It’s time.”

Virginity lost Kya tries to press Chase to take her places: his home, into town, to dances. But Chase’s excuses are more personal. He tells Kya she doesn’t have the right clothes. He hates dances and she can’t dance anyway. Being around people makes her anxious. She’s been isolated too long.

Kya hears the truth about Chase from Tate. Though he was close to graduating college, Tate’s first visit to Kya resulted in his apology and the brutal truth about Chase Andrews. Tate exposes Chase’s womanizing ways and his trash talk about his Marsh Girl.

 The author draws on her background in wildlife science to educate the main character and the reading audience. She drops ambiguous hints about the murderer and allows the town folks to judge a Marsh Girl as the obvious suspect. Did Kya kill Chase? Could it have been Tate who despised the lack of respect Chase Andrews had for Kya? Or, was the murderer a member of Colored Town who loved and respected Kya for her survival skills? Read this bestselling book and enjoy murder, mystery, coming of age, YA, and adult fiction. Experience life in the marsh from the main character’s point of view. Delia Owens presents a memorable novel as her first solo. Where the Crawdads Sing topped the New York Times best seller list for 30 weeks total as number one and additional 37 weeks on the list in other spots. Other books by Owens, co-authored with Mark Owens, are memoirs of their time in Africa studying wildlife.

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