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.
Now, let's get real. I did not like this book. The "mystery" was not convincing, and the ending was MAWKISH. Like, almost as deliberately bad as The Help, which I could not convince myself to finish. I might have muttered with disgust at the "big reveal." I also think going back and forth in time, while effective, was not entirely consistent, and there were some gaps the author could have thought through a bit more.
Also, I need to get real: Kya is a Mary Sue, and the trope of two dudes vying for this pretty and remarkable girl is shopworn. Like, SHOW me, don't TELL me that your protagonist is a special creature. As Pam from True Blood snaps, "I'm so over Sookie and her precious fairy vagina and her unbelievably stupid name!" (the one good moment from a bizarre season 4) I'm ready for this trope to die.
Let's also talk about something that is not especially great, especially since Delia Owens is being touted as a "new Southern writer." Now, the South is home to a lot of Black folx, and we all know it's because PEOPLE ENSLAVED THEM, both within the institution of slavery, and then with the institutions of sharecropping, Jim Crow laws, poverty, YOU NAME IT. Read Yaa Gyasi's Homegoing if you need a crash course. This book is set in North Carolina, otherwise known as THE SOUTH. So why, may I ask you, are the ONLY Black people in this book flat characters who serve as nothing more than magical stand-in parents to protect the innocent white girl? Like, that's LITERALLY the only purpose they serve. In the year of our Lord 2019, I should not need to explain why this is problematic AF. It feels as if Owens read Gone with the Wind and To Kill a Mockingbird and thought, "Wow, this is such a beautiful portrayal of the South."
Read Jesmyn Ward instead.
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 "local dialect" in the dialogue made my skin crawl. I don;t want to waste another minute on this nasty book.
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."
"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.
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.
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.
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.
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.