Where The Crawdads Sing

by Delia Owens

Hardcover, 2018




New York : G.P. Putnam's Sons, 2018.


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.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member Cariola
Wow, how can so many readers rave about this book? It was just awful. It took me every free minute of the two weeks I had it on loan to get to the end. I don't know why I stuck with it as it was painful every time I picked it up; maybe I was in the mood for masochism. So what's wrong with it? Well, for one thing, every page was screaming at me, "This is sad. So sad. SO SAD!!!" I have a strong bias against books that I feel are emotionally manipulating me. As soon as I started reading about The Marsh Girl, I was reminded of 'Beasts of the Southern Wild,' a wonderful story of a little girl living alone with her sick father in the swamps when Katrina is about to hit. Mother gone, dad drinks too much and frequently disappears, both try to avoid the bad, bad authorities, and both love the natural environment even though it causes hardships--but that's where the similarity ends. [Where the Crawdads Sing] should hope to be a tenth as good (but it isn't). It also can't decide whether it is a coming of age story or a murder mystery; the chapters jump between telling the story of Kya's life and the investigation of a murder for which she is later tried. And those trial scenes were the absolute most hackneyed that I have ever read. Old Perry Mason scripts were better. Secondary character--with the exception of Jumpin', a black man who runs a tiny gas station/convenience store that serves boaters, and his wife Mabel, are total stereotypes. 1) Jordie, the helpful older brother who quickly disappears, leaving Kya alone with 2) the drunken, abusive dad who isn't all bad when he's sober. 3) The Good Boy, Tate, who becomes Kya's only friend, and 4) The Bad Boy, Chase, the seduce-and-abandon type. 5) The cocky police chief and 6) his cocky assistant and 7) the cocky prosecutor. As to the writing: I love nature as much as the next person, but the writing in the long, long, tedious, repetitive passages describing shells and sea gulls and bird feathers and fireflies were, in my opinion, just plain bad (but not as bad as the trial chapters).

I could go on, but just--ugh.
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LibraryThing member queencersei
Abandoned in the North Carolina marsh, seven year old Kya Clark learns to survive on her own. While dodging the occasional truant officer, the resourceful Kya lives in her families shack, eking out a meager existence. Occasionally she is assisted by a kindly African-American couple who own a small shop right off a cove. Continually rejected by the local white community as being Marsh Trash and the Marsh Girl, Kya longs for and fears having any type of connection with others. Eventually two boys, Tate and Chase enter her life, both with devastating consequences for Kya.

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.
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LibraryThing member jfe16
Abandoned and alone, a young girl manages, by virtue of grit, luck, and sheer persistence, to survive as she grows up alone in the marshes of North Carolina. Shunned and suffering the condescension of most of the local townspeople, she finds few friends. But when a popular young man is found murdered in the marsh, Kya becomes the prime suspect. What, if anything, does Kya know about what happened that night? Is the Marsh Girl destined to spend the rest of her life locked away for murder? And just what is the truth?

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.
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LibraryThing member MandiLeighJohnson
I would have read the book for the authenticity alone! Owens captures the marshes of North Carolina perfectly. The dialect and characters are spot on. You fall in love with the characters right. You want to scoop up the main character and bring her home with you, and at the same time, you want to leave her right where she is so you can see how she melts into her environment.… (more)
LibraryThing member lvmygrdn
Loved this book. I will miss Kya, Jumpin' and Mabel.
LibraryThing member SBoren
I purchased this book from Amazon to read with Hello Sunshine Bookclub. All opinions are my own. 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. I would have never chosen this book to read for myself but I am so glad to be part of a Bookclub that did! This was a beautifully written book that will put you right in the marsh from the moment you pick it up. Kya was a girl left alone to defy all the odds of nature as a child and did so with minimal people and help and absolutely no adult supervision. While learning the laws of nature Kya struggles with loneliness but as she grows she learns more and more that much like nature the marsh has laws of it's own. Just as nature lives by its own rules so does the marsh. And sometimes just as in nature, the Marsh deals it's own justice to those who need it most. Kya soon finds herself in front of a jury facing a murder charge. But the marsh has no dealings with the law and tangled inside will hold many secrets the rest of the world refuses to see. Especially way out yonder where the crawdads sing. Review also posted on Instagram @borenbooks, Library Thing, Go Read, Goodreads/StacieBoren, Amazon, Twitter @jason_stacie and my blog at readsbystacie.com… (more)
LibraryThing member jwrudn
A wonderful book. A murder, a trial but a lot more: a lonely marsh girl, love, abandonment, betrayal all bound together by descriptions of nature with a naturalist's eye.
LibraryThing member DKnight0918
Oh my goodness, I can see why Reece Witherspoon picked this book for September’s book of the month. I listened to the audiobook and thoroughly enjoyed it. The book kept me guessing up until the very end.
LibraryThing member mchwest
I read this book shortly after I got it and didn't just put it on my TBR shelf mainly because I saw it on Reese Witherspoon's bookclub September read. It was one of the best books I've read this year, and reminded me some of Kristen Hannah's The Great Alone.
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.… (more)
LibraryThing member dara85
This book was so atmospheric. The writing was excellent. I hope Owens writes more fiction.
LibraryThing member meredk
I guess I had unrealistically high expectations for this book because so many people seem to love it. My reaction was mixed. I thought the author did a great job of describing nature, and she definitely brought the area of the marsh to vivid life. However, I thought she did a poor job of letting the reader understand how various characters feel through her writing - instead, she tended to over-explain emotions and reactions, which to me is a poor way to write. I also thought the plot was too predictable (except for the ending) and in a way too simplistic. Characters had little depth, except for the main character - for example, the explanation for why Tate stayed away for so long made no sense to me because he was mostly a cipher. It seemed to me that she put that into the story just to further the plot, and I found that irritating. And even Kya, who was supposed to be incredibly intelligent, seemed unrealistically naive.… (more)
LibraryThing member Romonko
For me, this book was totally unexpected. I'm not sure what I was expecting when I picked it up, but it wasn't something magical, mysterious, ethereal and other-worldly like this book is. The first thing I noticed was the language. Ms. Owens' writing is absolutely breathtaking. The book is about a little girl who has been left alone by her family at the age of seven. Her family consisted of her and four siblings and her mother and father. Her mother was a fairy princess in Kya's eyes. She brightened up her family's lives in the lonely hardscrabble cabin they lived in which is located in the North Carolina low-country. But first her older siblings leave, and then her mother leaves, leaving Kya with her drunken and abusive father and her next older brother, Jody. Then Jody leaves after a final beating from his father. Then it's Kya and her father and eventually he leaves too. Kya is all alone in the cabin with only the marsh, and her beloved birds for company. And the marsh is a character in this book. Kya thinks of the marsh as her mother, and this somehow gives her strength to carry on all on her own. The world does intrude on Kya's solitude occasionally, but her experiences with the outside world are not happy ones, and that just makes her withdraw more. She is called the Marsh Girl by everyone around. Kya learns to read and study her beloved marsh and all the life within it. It becomes her family.
"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.
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LibraryThing member juju2cat
If I could only keep three books to read for the rest of my life, this would be one of the chosen. It's deeply beautiful. Thank you to Delia Owens for this amazing book.
LibraryThing member maryreinert
The youngest in a family of poverty-stricken and dysfunctional individuals, Kya is abandoned by her mother when she is six leaving her with her drunken and cruel father in the marshes of coastal North Carolina. She attends school only one day in her life but learns to live on her own surviving by selling mussels. A young man, Tate, shares her interest in the wildlife and plants of the area, and a young romance blossoms.

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."
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LibraryThing member lauralkeet
At the age of 9, Kya finds herself living alone in the coastal North Carolina marshlands, having been abandoned by her mother, father, and brother. She fends for herself, living off the land and making a small amount of money by selling mussels to a shopkeeper at the marina. She avoids contact with the townspeople and anyone who comes looking for her, except for Tate, a boy a few years older. Tate teaches Kya to read and together they explore the marshland’s flora and fauna. He becomes her first love but eventually leaves for college.

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.
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LibraryThing member DrApple
Although this is a solid mystery, it seemed that all of the emphasis was on events before the murder took place and almost no time was given to the characters after the trial and before the revelation of who really committed the murder. Still, the main character is memorable, the setting is unique, and the prose is beautifully descriptive.… (more)
LibraryThing member Beamis12
MEMORABLE CHARACTERS AND MEMORABLE STORY. For me to rate a book five stars it has to give me something bout of the ordinary, make me feel. Most of all it has to be a book or contain a character or characters that I won't forget. Above all it has to make me feel. This book did all three. Kya, aka Catherine Clark, the Marsh girl is an unforgettable character, abandoned by her mother at she six, her siblings shortly after. By ten she was alone in the Marsh raising herself, her main source of comfort the natural life found in the North Carolina Marsh, the gulls she fed daily. She learned not to trust nor depend on anyone but herself. She was smart, curious, feArless and so lonely. As if this character wasn't enough to remember, there are also some supporting characters that play an integral part in her life. Jumpin and Mabel, a black couple that try to help Kya in whatever way she will accept. Tate, who has known her since she was small, teaches her to read anc much more.

What will one do in the face of such loneliness? How much fill they sacrifice if they reach out, trust? Prejudice is a big theme, because as the Marsh girl she is considered illiterate, unclean, and none in the village reach out to help. There is of course a villisn, who claims to love her, but marries another, breaking her heart . This is there another thread comes in, a story told in alternate chapters, as when he is murdered , she is accused. Also where another wonderful character comes in, a man, 74 years old, z retired laeyer who comes out of retirement to defend her against a town that already assumes she is guilty.

I could nitpick a few things, but I won't. I loved and learned much about the natural world, a different way of looking at things. On walks I take along the river I will look at things I ordinarily wouldn't. A survival story, what Kya has to do it not easy, but since she has little choice it is what she does. Making the most of what one has, regardless of how little. More than one I had tears running down my face, so this gets five, big marshmallow stars from this reader.

This was mine, Angela and Esils August read, and as always our reads and discussions are something in which I look forward.

ARC from Edelweiss.
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LibraryThing member susan0316
I know I am late to read this book but I finally found the time and am so glad that I did. This is a beautifully written coming of age story set in the swamps at the NC coast. The author's writing about daily life in the swamps and the animals and birds that live there is exquisite to the point that the reader feels that they are there with the characters.

Kya and her family live in a small home in the marsh cut off from the town and civilization in general. When she was 6, her mom walked away and never came back. Several years later, her dad also left and never came back so she was left on her own. She only went to school one day and was harassed so much that she never went back. A local boy, Tate, met her when they were fishing and taught her how to read. When he went away to college, she was alone again - yearning for connection with people but afraid to go out into society. This the story of Kya's life with all of the joy and sorrow involved.

This was a beautiful book and I highly recommend it. It's a debut novel by Delia Owens and I look forward to her future novels.
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LibraryThing member Dianekeenoy
This is a coming of age story, a mystery and a haunting story of love for the natural world. Kya’s father brought the family to this marshland after he was wounded in WWII. He was a bitter and abusive man. Kya is deserted first by her mother at the age of six, then her siblings fled their abusive father, one by one leaving Kya behind. Kya had to learn to survive on her own in the marsh keeping away from her father when he was drinking which was most of the time. He did spend some time with her teaching her how to use the boat and catch fish. But, soon enough, he leaves and never returns. She is on her own by the age of ten living in the North Carolina marsh living on what she could find in the wild and trading fish and mussels for her staples and gas for her boat. She learned not to trust or depend on anyone but herself.

The book has chapters moving back and forth between Kya’s story from her abandonment at six to a murder trial in her twenties. She had grown into adulthood with only occasional interaction with the local store owner, his wife and two local boys who are drawn to her beauty and wildness.

The author is a scientist and that shows up beautifully in this book. This is her first book of fiction and I look forward to her next one.
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LibraryThing member PattyLouise
Where The Crawdads Sing
Delia Owens

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.
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LibraryThing member creighley
For years rumors have abounded about the Marsh Girl. Abandoned by everyone dear to her, Kya Clark somehow managed to survive in the ,rash on her own. Taught to read by a friend who eventually leaves her too, Kya soon delves into the written word. She has lived alone for years wanting to be accepted and to be loved. Eventually, two young men find they can’t resist her beauty. One is sincere; the other sees Kya as an object to “bag.” When Chase ends up dead, the town’s suspicions fall on Kya, a girl they failed to help or try to understand.… (more)
LibraryThing member cmt100
This is a stay-up-late-till-you-finish-it book. Abandoned at age 6 in a wild, magnificent marsh by an abusive father, a shell-shocked mother, and desperate siblings, the "Marsh Girl" struggles to survive the natural world, hostile and indifferent townspeople, and soul-killing loneliness. Having managed to reach adulthood, she is accused of murdering a man who's a town favorite.

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.
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LibraryThing member asawyer
Predictable, but an interesting and engaging story. Reads quickly and kept me going - even if almost nothing was realistic. The mystery was hardly one and the ending was too neatly tied up.

There are a few things that just don't ring true. The most blatant:
- The setting, eastern North Carolina and the Outer Banks - and where I grew up, is not like described. You don't have marsh and ocean together, the sounds (inland water) make the marshes so you don't turn a corner and have a sandy ocean beach.
- Learning to read so easily just by knowing how letters sound - and starting with adult level books - is ridiculous. I'm teaching adult literacy - and know it's much harder for... BUT, the rewards and potential to changes lives, like it did for Kya are real.
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LibraryThing member John_Warner
"Tutored by million of minutes alone, Kya thought she knew lonely. A life of staring at the old kitchen table, into empty bedrooms, across endless stretches of sea and grass. No one to share the joy of a found feather or a finished watercolor. Reciting poetry to seagulls."

Such is the adult life of Kya Clark. Kya was on her own since she was six. The youngest in a dysfunctional family living on the North Carolina coast, secreted back in the marshlands, she was abandoned, when, one by one, her parents and siblings walked away. Fearing what others might do, she eschewed agents from social institutions by hiding herself in the surrounding marsh. Over the years, she has haunted the citizens of Barkley Cove so that she has become known as the "Marsh Girl."

As she grew into adolescence, Kya's wildness attracted several local boys to her. Tate, interested in marsh ecosystems, teaches Kya how to read and write. However, he breaks her heart when she abandons her to leave for college. Chase Andrews, Barkley Cove's wealthy high school football quarterback enters her life and teaches Kya about love and sex. But, Kya is crestfallen when she discovers that Chase is engaged to be married to another girl. When Chase's body is discovered at the base of fire tower, apparently the result of an accident when he stepped through "Tutored by million of minutes alone, Kya thought she knew lonely. A life of staring at the old kitchen table, into empty bedrooms, across endless stretches of sea and grass. No one to share the joy of a found feather or a finished watercolor. Reciting poetry to seagulls."

Such is the adult life of Kya Clark. Kya was on her own since she was six. The youngest in a dysfunctional family living on the North Carolina coast, secreted back in the marshlands, she was abandoned, when, one by one, her parents and siblings walked away. Fearing what others might do, she eschewed agents from social institutions by hiding herself in the surrounding marsh. Over the years, she has haunted the citizens of Barkley Cove so that she has become known as the "Marsh Girl."

As she grew into adolescence, Kya's wildness attracted several local boys to her. Tate, interested in marsh ecosystems, teaches Kya how to read and write. However, he breaks her heart when she abandons her to leave for college. Then Chase, the local high school quarterback from a wealthy family, enters her life and teaches her about love and sex. Kya is crestfallen when she discovers that Chase is engaged to be married to another. When, Chase's body is discovered at the base of a fire tower, the apparent victim of an accident when he fell through an open trap door, the "accident" begins to look suspicious. When murder is suspected, the accusing finger of the town's prejudicial citizens begin pointing toward Kya.

Some reviewers criticized the sluggish pace of the first half of the novel, however, I thought the pace better developed Kya's character. I also thought the pace better developed the marsh environs, in a sense, creating a secondary character. I was better able to enter this book and connect with Kya's interactions with this land. I agree with others regarding the premise of this book. I questioned the ability of a six-year old to survive without assistance unbelievable. I have a five-, almost six-year-old grandson, and can't fathom him doing it. The story would have been more believable if the author would have made Kya a bit older. The ending of the novel neatly tied up all loose ends; however, I thought the ending a bit maudlin.

Over all, even with its flaws, I enjoyed the book very much and would recommend it to my friends and would be willing to read the author's next work if it comes to pass.
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LibraryThing member SignoraEdie
Wrenchingly beautiful...



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