“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,” (Owens 3).
After her family one by one leaves their shack on the marsh, Kya Clark finds her self alone, working hard to survive. Shy and uneasy around others, Kya is judged at a young age by the people of Barkley Cove who view her as swamp trash, eventually giving her the name “Marsh Girl” and creating rumours about her. And while Kya finds comfort in the creatures that inhabit the march and knows how to live an isolated life, she yearns to connect and be with people. When two men become intrigued by her beauty and wild nature Kya slowly begins to open herself up until tragedy strikes.
The best way to sum up my feelings about Where the Crawdads Sing is that it’s a book club book. This isn’t meant to be snide or pointed in any way, it’s just a fact. The book is written in a way that isn’t simple but isn’t as jargony as it could be considering the depth of science and nature it goes into, making it accessible and easy for reader’s to read. Owens writes wonderful descriptions so that it’s easy to visualize the beauty of the marsh Kya calls home, and the descriptions of Southern food will make your mouth water (I don’t know what a po’ boy is, but I want one). Kya is an easy protagonist to love, with reader’s rooting for things to go right when so much goes wrong, I know I felt angry for Kya again and again at all the men who disappointed and betrayed her, at how difficult her life was and how she yearned to be “normal” but had learned to find comfort in the world she was forced to grow-up in. I will say that at times Kya suffers from “not-like-other-girls” syndrome which was definitely irritating, so many people seeing her as “wild” and “beautiful” while also wanting to Pygmalion her.
I would say Where the Crawdads Sing is more “coming-of-age” heavy than “murder mystery” which isn’t a bad thing, if anything the fact that Owens could successfully write these two things happening in one story is a feat. And there’s also many ways this story could be analyzed, it sent my English major brain into overdrive. Kya is the marsh and Chase are those who use and take the marsh for their own benefit while Tate wants to preserve and protect it from a naturalist perspective. I understand the hype around this book, I also understand the criticism and can’t help but be curious about how much personal inspiration Owens got for her debut fiction novel. Not to say at all that any of it is true, but things can happen in our lives that spur questions of “what-ifs” and make new stories altogether.
Overall, I enjoyed Where the Crawdads Sing. It was vibrantly written with an intriguing story that definitely caught me off-guard at times. Not one I’ll necessarily re-read but I’m glad I read it at all to understand the popularity around it.
Publication: August 14th 2018
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Pages: 370 pages (Hardcover)
Genre: Fiction, Historical Fiction, Mystery
My Rating: ⛤⛤⛤.5
For years, rumors of the “Marsh Girl” haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet fishing village. Kya Clark is barefoot and wild; unfit for polite society. So in late 1969, when the popular Chase Andrews is found dead, locals immediately suspect her.
But Kya is not what they say. A born naturalist with just one day of school, she takes life’s lessons from the land, learning the real ways of the world from the dishonest signals of fireflies. But while she has the skills to live in solitude forever, the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. Drawn to two young men from town, who are each intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new and startling world—until the unthinkable happens.