Where the Crawdads Sing – Delia Owens

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
Published by G.P. Putnam's Sons on August 14, 2018
Genres: Fiction, Historical, Suspense
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A novel about a young woman determined to make her way in the wilds of North Carolina, and the two men that will break her isolation open.

For years, rumors of the "Marsh Girl" have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. She's barefoot and wild; unfit for polite society. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark.

But Kya is not what they say. Abandoned at age ten, she has survived on her own in the marsh that she calls home. A born naturalist with just one day of school, she takes life lessons from the land, learning from the false signals of fireflies the real way of this world. But while she could have lived 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.

Where the Crawdads Sing is one of the most beautiful, powerful novels I’ve ever read. It’s an absolute masterpiece that’s every bit as layered and filled with surprises as the marshlands that form its setting.

The story is told in two, slowly-converging storylines. In the present (1969-1970), the small town of Barkley Cove, North Carolina, has been rocked by the death of one of its most prominent citizens. Chase Andrews, the former high-school star quarterback, is found dead at the bottom of an abandoned fire tower. Accident or murder? The town sheriff doesn’t know, but as the story unfolds, the loosest of evidence—such as a missing shell necklace—points toward the mysterious woman the town calls The Marsh Girl.

The second storyline begins in the past, in the 1950s, and tells the story of Kya Clark. In 1952, Kya watches her mother walk down the long, winding road to their secluded shack and never return. Over the years, because of her father’s abuse, her older siblings leave one by one, until it’s just her and her abusive father. Then, one day, before she’s even a teenager, her father never returns. Kya is left alone.

To say more than this would ruin the majesty of the many moments in Where the Crawdads Sing that must be experienced with full naivete of the story’s progression. Kya makes a life for herself in the marshlands and the people of the town ignore her. Until Chase Andrews dies.

To even tell you why or how that’s important is to say too much. Suffice it to say that Delia Owens weaves a tale as unbelievable as it is believable, one that bucks stereotype even as it embraces it, a bildungsroman par excellence that reaches to the heart of any number of relevant social issues.

Since it was released in 2018, Where the Crawdads Sing has outsold Stephen King, David Baldacci, and John Grisham in print copies sold…combined. I had the pleasure of listening on audiobook. Usually, I crank audiobooks up to 2x the speed or higher. With Where the Crawdads Sing, I slowed it to its intended pace and allowed myself to bask in the story and linger on every word. It’s a weird praise to sing, but the highest I can give an audiobook.

Just. Just go read this book. And do it before the inevitable movie comes out.