‘Where the Crawdads Sing’ by Delia Owens is an excellently researched novel. I looked up Ms. Owens and turns out she is an actual zoologist trained in the habits and natural environments of animals. This makes a huge difference, because when you read her writing you will be transported directly to the place she is describing. You will see the owls, and the fish, and you will hear the music of the marsh (not to be confused with swamp, because Owens points out early on that they are absolutely not the same). Owens writes about the swamp:
There are sounds, of course, but compared to the marsh, the swamp is quiet because decomposition is cellular work.
Beyond the rich physical environment, the plot centers on a very lonely girl protagonist named Kya whose entire family, for one reason or another, leaves her to fend for herself for long periods of time in this North Carolinian Marshland. But the Marshland, almost a character of its own, sustains Kya, giving her life and embraces her as would a mother.
Kya was bonded to her planet and its life in a way few people are. Rooted solid in this earth. Born of this mother.
You learn fast that Kya is a survivor. She feeds herself. She makes a friend that teaches her to read. Through that reading and self development, Kya grows and makes something of herself despite great odds stacked against her.
BUT WAIT! This is the South, between the 1950s and 1970s. There is a cast of bigoted locals, many calling Kya ‘swamp trash’ and other less than delightful names. Owens seems to show that people just need to find other people to put down; helps with their own ego. Perhaps Owens doesn’t see that behavior in other animals, and this is a uniquely human trait? I’ll have to ask if I ever get to meet her.
A death occurs early in the story, and Kya (aka local ‘Swamp Trash’) is quickly viewed with suspicion of murder due to the “negative” evidence found at the scene, (located at the start of the marsh). Because no evidence is as suspicious as a smoking gun, the police are full time investigating and the town wants a scapegoat.
Fingers are pointed at Kya, and she’s going to have to get through this like she did through her childhood. With grit and grace, reliance on herself, and hope that a little justice shines her way.
Overall this is a 5 star read and I recommend it highly. Get your copy and thank Ms. Owens for being a delight.
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