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.
I feel so god-awful restless as I'm reading this that I can't even get through a page without staring off into space and fiddling with stuff. It's prolix yet goes nowhere slowly and in painful detail. In 50 pages, only about three things have happened, unless you want to count multiple cookings of grits. I mean honestly, I fucking love grits, but there is simply no excuse for grits to be cooked more than once in the first 50 pages of a book unless I am actually reading a grits cookbook. I'm just gonna wiki why that dude died, because I will cry if I try to read more of this.
I could go on, but just--ugh.
I wanted to like this book and it was a well laid out, quick read. But by the time I got to the 'twist' ending the story collapsed for me under the weight of one implausible scenario after another. Where the Crawdads Sing isn't bad, but the suspension of disbelief required throughout the novel is frankly exhausting.
It is the story of Kya, the Marsh Girl, abandoned by her mother at an early age.
Ma leaves in order to escape an abusive husband. Kya and her much elder siblings are left behind. Subsequently, the siblings leave too, including Jodie, her favourite brother.
Pa is an unsympathetic character, who neglects Kya completely. She is often starving until she learns how to get hold of and sell some products.
Kya can t read or count. She only lasts one day at school, it being too hurtful to go there and be treated like “swamp trash”.
For me, one of the saddest things is that since Kya doesn t attend school, she doesn t learn to read. But then she makes a wonderful friend, Tate, who comes to her shack and teaches her how to.
By that time Pa has deserted her too, or else he is dead, she doesn t know.
Tate is a good friend until he too abandons her. She is all alone. But the kindly black man, Jumpin and his wife Mabel help Kya out and give her clothing.
Kya collects shells and feathers and becomes an expert on the Marsh.
Tate brings her presents of feathers. He is becoming an expert too.
Occasionally, we jump forward in time and learn about the case of Chase Andrews, whose body is found in mysterious circumstances at the foot of a Tower and police are investigating what happened. Kya knows Chase too.
This is a beautifully written book about a lonely, sensitive, gifted girl. I highly recommend that you read it.
From there the story becomes just too unbelievable. Tate teaches Kya to read and soon she is reading college textbooks on biology. Tate leaves for college and eventually earns a doctorate while Kya is amassing a huge collection of plants, bird feathers, etc. Meanwhile, the popular football player, Chase, takes an interest and an affair develops, but not surprisingly he never appears in public with Kya. Later he is married but still want to maintain the affair.
Chase is eventually murdered by falling from a fire tower. Kya is charged with the murder, Tate reappears in her life, she is becomes a respected author and illustrator of wildlife books. There is a trial..... and so on and so on.
Loved the setting and the writing was very readable and smooth. However, it is too much of a stretch for my cynical mind to bring this orphaned and illiterate child to the person she becomes. Basically, a sort of romance version of "Beasts of the Southern Wild."
In a parallel narrative set several years later, officials are investigating the suspicious death of Chase Andrews, the town’s favorite son and former high school quarterback. As the narratives converge the reader learns more about Chase as seen through Kya’s eyes. All is certainly not what it seems.
Where the Crawdads Sing is a hugely popular debut novel, in its 45th week at or near the top of the New York Times bestseller list at the time of this review. And while I enjoyed this book, it didn’t live up to the hype. I’d been warned of the need to suspend disbelief, especially regarding Kya’s ability to survive on her own and not end up in foster care. I was actually okay with that part. But not only did Kya learn to read, she somehow managed to become a well-known biologist despite a complete lack of formal education. And some aspects of the writing didn’t work for me. The author was inconsistent in her use of dialect: while most of the town’s white population (including Kya) spoke perfect schoolbook English, Chase’s speech was inexplicably littered with southern vernacular. There was a side plot involving poems which I found a distraction. And the book ended with a sweeping dénouement that should have been accompanied by dramatic orchestral music.
Despite my issues with this book, if you can accept if for what it is, it makes for a pleasant summer read.
Now what I really enjoyed about this book was the life that this Marsh Girl lived is unlike anything I could imagine, it didn't make me want to try it, but I so loved the written details of the marsh and even the intricate details of the different feathers she would find. I guess sometimes we want to read about life we would never lead and places we don't want to live. The mystery set in the plot kept me guessing to the end, and typical of me, I never saw where the ending took us. Great read, I will highly recommend it to all.
The story told here, that of a ten-year-old child . . . abandoned by her family, fending for herself as she grows into adulthood . . . pulls readers into the telling of the tale from the very first page. Readers will find themselves drawn to her, sharing her pain and applauding her accomplishments. It is, by turns, heart-wrenching, affirming, and poignant.
It is also quite problematic.
Despite the supposed harshness of her life, everything falls into place and comes far too easily for the young girl.
Even in the 1950s, there was a system in place to care for orphaned and abandoned children; it is highly inconceivable that, despite her familiarity with the area, a child could elude all adults and spend years abandoned in the marsh.
And after spending only one day in school, she has taught herself enough to become an award-winning biologist and noted author?
Readers should always willingly suspend disbelief, but there’s a LOT to accept here in the telling of this tale.
With its predictable characters and situations, the story offers few surprises for the reader and the over-abundance of poetry fails to mesh well with the narrative. The unexpected, disappointing final revelation is out of character and abrogates everything readers have, until that time, learned about Kya; it serves only to vitiate the hard-won integrity of the young woman.
However, the beautiful, flowing descriptions of the marsh habitat, of its flora and fauna, are a treasure and are the overarching highlight of this book. It is here that the writing shines and it is for these alone that readers will find the book difficult to set aside.
"Maybe it was mean country, but not an inch was lean. Layers of life--squiggly sand crabs, mud-waddling crayfish, waterfowl, fish, shrimp, oysters, fatted deer, and plump geese--were piled on the land or in the water. " -Delia Owens
This is a coming-of-age story like none you have ever read. It's a haunting and sad story of a little girl who grows up all on her own in her beloved marsh. It's a story about a little girl who grows into a strong, capable woman. A woman who makes her own choices and lives life the way that she wants to until tragedy occurs in her marsh. Then the outside world comes crashing into Kya's idyllic and remote home. Kya's story is told in such lushly descriptive language that it felt almost decadent reading her enthralling story. Highly recommended.
However, I thought the writing was lackluster, the dialect inconsistent and the plot and characters were kind of shaky.
I did like the ending, or rather, I liked the idea of the end, but wished it had been executed better.
In 1952 on the coast of North Carolina, Kya is just six when her mother walks away from their family's rough cabin in the marsh, leaving behind Kya, her older brother Jodie, and their alcoholic, abusive father. Several older siblings are already long gone. That same year, Jodie leaves. And finally, when Kya is ten, her father disappears too, leaving this child to survive in the marsh alone. Kya becomes known as The Marsh Girl in town, laughed at, neglected, and avoided by almost everyone. She manages to figure out how to survive with a little help from Jumpin' and Mabel where she goes to buy her meager supplies and gas. They collect clothing and food for her from the colored church while the white part of town ignores her and scorns her. Kya watches the nature surrounding her, observant and quiet, learning the marsh and its ecosystem like the back of her hand. As she grows, she also watches the people around her, becoming friends with a golden haired boy named Tate, a friend of her older brother's, who will teach her to read and encourage her in her collecting. She also observes the small group of privileged young people around her age, led by the town's best quarterback ever, Chase Andrews. It is Chase who, in the second timeline of the story will be found dead at the base of an abandoned fire tower, setting off a murder investigation aimed straight at the beautiful, odd Marsh Girl, Kya.
The story ranges from the 50s to the 70s and is a murder mystery, a romance, and a naturalist's diary all rolled into one. The latter is the most successful part of the novel, with Owens' lovely descriptions of the natural world shining through. Unfortunately the murder mystery and the romance were significantly less well written, filled with cliches and stilted writing. There were quite a few completely unrealistic plot points, including Kya's unlikely education and phenomenal success later in life, the uncharacteristic and out of the blue event that contributes to a motive for charging Kya with Chase's murder, and in fact the complicated case for how this simple, reclusive woman who had only left her home once in her life would have plotted and committed it
Author Delia Owens is a respected naturalist and non-fiction author, and her lush descriptions of the North Carolina marsh are wonderful. This, her first, novel, is well-constructed, moving, exciting, and surprising. Highly recommended.
Behold a story set along North Carolina’s marshy coastline in the 1950s and 1960s that will hold you captive to the very end. Listen closely to human silence and hear the sounds of the crawdads singing as waves lap against the skiff. Smell the living marsh or feel repelled by the recycling odors of the swamp; a place void of gas fumes, fried foods and the detritus of sanctimonious humans void of compassion and racial superiority. Become one with the lonesomeness and isolation of an abandoned child striving to be alive in all its manifestations – body, mind, and soul.
Kya was six years-old when Ma, wearing her favorite fake alligator skin shoes, left the marsh displaying the fresh bruises Pa had pounded into her. Pa shifted focus and foisted his anger and violence down the food chain onto his five children. One by one Kya watched her much older siblings take Ma’s freedom walk. When she was ten years-old, Pa,too, and never returned.
Being alone in the Marsh didn’t frighten Kya. She had grown used to escaping for long periods into the wilds when Pa would be on a rampage. What did bother her was why none of her siblings or Ma took her with them when they made their escape. Was she disposable? Worthless? Invisible?
Kya, crudely referred to as “The Marsh Girl” by the residents of Barkley Cove, repelled by her own kind, turned to the natural world of the wetlands for emotional and physical survival. The wildlife and waterways raised her. She learned about group dynamics, gender roles, survival techniques, marshland justice, and the natural order of life up and down the food chain. Her best friends are seagulls. Her source of meager income for town dependent supplies – selling mussels to a warm-hearted old African American man, himself stifled by the stench of racism.
The sun, warm as a blanket,
wrapped Kya’s shoulders… whenever she stumbled,
it was the land that caught her…
Kya laid her hand upon the breathing, wet earth,
and the marsh became her mother.
One day, a few years after she was abandoned, she unexpectedly finds a boy fishing in her marsh. Although he seems to not see her, she finds gifts of rare feathers appearing in a stump near her house. The careful contact between them leads to a comfortable friendship. The kind-hearted Tate recognizes Kya as smart and intellectually curious and teaches her to read. When Tate graduates high school he breaks Kya’s heart as he leaves for college and a life away from the coast. He vows to return but becomes ensnared in the outside world and reneges on his promise. And the lonely years begin again for Kya.
Occasionally she spots people on her beach, usually a cluster of entitled teenagers she has seen in town. A quickly maturing Kya feeling the need for human contact, spots the teens and watches from a stealth position. She yearns to belong, to share in their enjoyment of each other. The alpha male, Chase Andrews, spots the beautiful and mysterious Marsh girl observing the group. Intrigued, he begins to court her and she falls in love. On his first visit to her house, he had assumed she was an uneducated wild creature and was surprised to find her intelligent, self-educated, and self-sufficient. Over time he promises to bring her to the town, introduce her to his parents with the goal of marrying her. She begins to lower her guard and allows herself to believe she will finally be recognized and accepted.
The world turns upside down when Chase’s body is found near an abandoned fire tower in the marsh. Who killed him? Why? Instinctively, without cause, the town blames the mysterious Marsh Girl leading to an excruciating trial for Kya. Will she find herself imprisoned, alienated from both town and her marsh? A trapped animal?
No more clues. Just remember that Kya is sensitive, extraordinary, curious, intelligent and adaptive. There is a lot more to see here. The final chapters are heartwarming as she finally finds peace and love. The ending will blow your mind.
This is a beautiful book. Marshes and swamps have always seemed frightening to me, but they came alive with possibilities because of The Marsh Girl, one of the kinder epithets throw at this strange wild creature who had to raise herself. Who learned the secrets of nature. Who never fit in. The writing is beautiful and not overblown. Descriptive, not flowery. There was romance in this book, and I'm not usually a fan of romances, but this story was so much more than that. Lovely and memorable.
What it's all about...
Kya was left alone when her mother could not take her father’s physical abuse any longer. Kya saw her mother walk away in her fake alligator shoes down the rutted road away from her house. Soon after...one by one...her brothers and sisters left, too. Kya was left on her own with a drunken gambling father until the day he left and never came back.
Why I wanted to read it...
Kya could not read or write or count. Kya kept herself alive by digging for mussels and smoking fish. Kya was known as the Marsh Girl and as the Marsh Girl she knew every bird and creature and plant and insect in the Marsh. Barefooted, ragged...hungry...she kept herself alive. With the help of an elderly black couple...Jupiter and Mabel...who sometimes got her clothes and food...as much as they could.
What made me truly enjoy this book...
Tate was the boy she met in the Marsh. Slowly they established a fragile relationship. Tate taught her to read and count. Tate taught her to trust and love until he went away with a promise to return and didn’t. Then she met Chase...a wealthy spoiled boy from town who made Kya promises that he had no intention of keeping. I think what I truly loved best about this book was the beautiful writing. I loved the lush beautiful descriptions of the Marsh and its inhabitants. I loved the way Kya’s knowledge of the Marsh led to beautiful paintings and sketches of shells and birds and things that had never been seen before. I love the way there is a mystery within this book...one that endangers everything about Kya’s life. There is so much more that you will discover about the Marsh Girl as you read this book. Her solitude, her ability to keep herself alive, her incredible knowledge. This book will stay with me for a long time.
Why you should read it, too...
Readers who love a strong story with characters that can break your heart...will love this book. It reminded me of books like A Tree Grows In Brooklyn and To Kill A Mockingbird...in a strange way.
I received an advance reader’s copy of this book from the publisher through Edelweiss and Amazon. It was my choice to read it and review it.