Where the Crawdads Sing

by Delia Owens

Hardcover, 2018

Call number




G.P. Putnam's Sons (2018), Edition: First Edition, First Printing, 384 pages


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)

Media reviews

Steeped in the rhythms and shadows of the coastal marshes of North Carolina’s Outer Banks, this fierce and hauntingly beautiful novel centers on...Kya’s heartbreaking story of learning to trust human connections, intertwine[d] with a gripping murder mystery, revealing savage truths. An
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astonishing debut.
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1 more
The New York Times Book Review
A painfully beautiful first novel that is at once a murder mystery, a coming-of-age narrative and a celebration of nature....Owens here surveys the desolate marshlands of the North Carolina coast through the eyes of an abandoned child. And in her isolation that child makes us open our own eyes to
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the secret wonders—and dangers—of her private world.
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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,
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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 larryerick
I am fully aware of how popular this book has been. And it saddens me that is so. Certainly, the book starts off with an interesting premise. Imagine Harper Lee had written another To Kill a Mockingbird, but, instead, Atticus was an alcoholic fisherman and Scout's brother ran off to save himself.
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This, in turn, might have ended up with the main character being another Nell in the Jody Foster movie, but, in this case, nope, a boy teaches her to how to read and she ends up a world-class biologist. Definitely believable. I was still willing to go along with the author's plan of action, when I started coming across brief outlandish text -- which my wife, who has also read this book, admits not even noticing -- as well as an obvious effort to avoid mentioning certain societal dynamics that would have certainly been playing a part in the scenario the author had put together. Other manipulations creep in. Then the book gets to a particular legal involvement where the whole thing turns to crap with key characters doing things nobody in those actual positions would have done, but the author presents it all with a straight face. I finally felt compelled to read more about the author herself and found plenty to convince me that this book was ultimately the author's attempt to pat herself on the back for what she had been rightfully criticized for in her real life. My wife kept saying back to me when I found problem after problem, "But it's fiction..." If fiction doesn't relate well to reality in some way, even if it's in a what-if sort of way, then what's the point?
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LibraryThing member Carol420
I thought the story was totally unbelievable. We meet a little girl…now keep in mind that she is 6 years old. She has been left alone in a shack in the middle of the North Carolina swamp. Now here is where I had many problems with it. She raises herself…She lives in that same shack all this
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time. She uses the same boat. … No one lifts a hand to help her or check on her or misses her In more than 20 years. Nothing ever needs repairs. What does she do for clothes? I don’t think she could wear the same clothes all this time. My two kids were lucky if they could wear the same clothes for 6 months when they were 6 years old. The whole thing just fumbled and stumbled around…maybe it was searching for a place to end its misery. I am a member of the minority here I know...as I see almost 800 people rated it 4 or 5 stars. Sorry, but I just don't see it. Oh yeah…there was a murder.
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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
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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 drmom62
Highly overrated.
LibraryThing member varielle
Fiction should have some element of plausibility. Where the Crawdads Sing does not. If that doesn’t bother you go ahead but it makes me crazy. I don’t have a taste for tortured family melodramas, or reading about grinding southern poverty and despair in a pseudo-southern gothic setting but
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thought I would give this a go since it was so popular. Every scenario was wildly unlikely. Did the author even research the state of forensics in an impoverished coastal county fifty years ago? Did she even look into what might have been common names post WWII in the area? No, she just gave pop 21st century name to primary characters and sent other characters on wild leaps of logic. Give this a pass unless you enjoy tripe in a swampy soap opera.
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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
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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
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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
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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 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
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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.
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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
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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 Bauernfeind
Woven into the path of Louisana history, this is a beautiful tale of the life of this young woman and what she endures. Heartache, abandonment, treachery, and the accusation of murder all play out in this Louisana swamp that I could never have believed was as beautiful as seen through the eyes of
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this young girl. Beautifully told, and heartwarming story.
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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
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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 lvmygrdn
Loved this book. I will miss Kya, Jumpin' and Mabel.
LibraryThing member fingerpost
Kya grows up in the Eastern North Carolina coastal marshlands in poverty, the family led by an abusive father. Her mother leaves her abusive husband, then her brothers and sisters leave, and while she manages with just her father for a while, eventually, even he disappears. Kya lives alone, and
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manages to survive (just barely) by her own ingenuity and a little help from a trusted few.
Her first love, Tate, goes off to college,and seemingly forgets her.
But her second suitor, Chase Andrews, sticks around too long. Long enough for Kya to learn that he was simply using her and lying to her all along.
And when Chase dies by falling from a fire tower, murder is suspected, and Kya is the prime suspect.
The book alternates chapters from the past with chapters from 1969-1970 (think of that as the present) when the murder investigation and eventual trial are happening. A sad and heart-wrenching book, Where the Crawdads Sing is also heartwarming in its own way. And though they are somewhat minor characters, the real heroes of the story are Jumpin' and Mable.
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LibraryThing member IonaS
This is an enchanting but sad story.

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
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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.
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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 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 amyghilton
This book was just okay for me. Although I really liked the main character, Kya, and connected with her, several things about the story bothered me. Being a native of NC, the dialogue the author used sounded like it should be set in Georgia, Alabama, or even Louisiana. The plot was also a bit weak
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and predictable. And what happened at the end was just a bit unbelievable. I did enjoy the nature aspect.
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LibraryThing member whitreidtan
It seems like everyone in the world has already read this one so I am incredibly late to the party. However, every party needs a pooper; that's why they invited me. Yes, unlike the rest of the world, I did not love this. I can almost see why people reacted the way they did but I was generally
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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 (that this hypothesis basically turns out to be true is even less believable). The characterizations in the novel were thin and underdeveloped and some, like those of the sheriff and his deputy were complete caricatures. Kya started off as a believable character but when Owens tried to add more depth and nuance to her backstory, sharing Kya's parents' more genteel backgrounds and history, she and her situation became less believable. Dialogue between characters was eye-rolling and the fact that dialect was used sometimes and not others, and not character dependent, was incredibly distracting. The beginning of the novel, as Kya is abandoned again and again, facing prejudice and disdain, and has to find a way to scratch out a meager living, is quite slow making the second part of the novel feel like it is in a huge rush to get to the end. I know I am in the minority, but I just couldn't overcome the problems with the novel to really appreciate this the way so many others clearly do.
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LibraryThing member laytonwoman3rd
I had some disbelief issues with this one early on, and from time to time something would feel anachronistic or just plain odd to me, but as the story developed I got fairly well invested in it, and by the last third, I hated to put it down. There is no doubt that a nature writer was behind this
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book, and there were descriptive passages that I simply loved. The trial sequences were quite well done, and had me rooting for the "right" outcome, even as I had my suspicions about the true ending of the tale. It's hard to talk about without spoilers, but here's a quick list of things that didn't quite work for me.

A six-eight year old abandoned to her own devices manages to survive, even thrive, without too much difficulty under primitive circumstances.

A teenaged boy with intelligence, sensitiviy and compassion way out of proportion to place, time and upbringing.

A jury in North Carolina in 1970 comprised of 7 women and 5 men. This detail had me searching the internet to find out if that was even historically possible. Although I didn't find a definitive answer, I came to accept that it might have happened. Still think it's unlikely, and it threw me out of the story for a bit...for no good reason. The composition of the jury was irrelevant to the story, so why mention it at all?

Would a "marsh girl" living an unfettered natural life wear underwear? And would she call them "panties"?

Would that abandoned child, now grown to womanhood, really remember as much about her life before her parents left her as she seems to?

Did books go from concept to publication that much faster in the 1960's?

Where were all the other "marsh people" off-handedly referred to from time to time who never seemed to appear anywhere?

Quibbly details, maybe. First novel hitches, no doubt. Overall, this was a satisfying read, that I almost gave up on, because for a long time I simply did not buy Kya as a real person. I think I'll settle on 3 1/2 stars. The ending almost pushed it to 4, but not quite.

Reviewed in 2019
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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 wunder
Gave up after 100 pages. Each time I put it down, I just didn't care about the characters. I was looking at them, pitying them, instead of being drawn into the story. Action wasn't really motivated, it was a mix of Then Another Thing Happened and being moved around by The Hand of the Author. How
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was she beautiful after 14 years of bad diet and bug bites? Wouldn't she have scurvy and missing teeth by then? Why didn't the puncture wound get infected? How could she learn to read books about towns and cities when she'd never even seen indoor plumbing?

Yeah, just not working for me.
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LibraryThing member BookConcierge
Digital audio performed by Cassandra Campbell

In the small North Carolina coastal town of Barkley Cove, everyone knows about the “Marsh Girl.” Kya Clark was abandoned, first by her mother, then by her older siblings, and finally by her father. Left to her own devices since the age of ten,
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she’s learned to fend for herself and keep away from any authority figures who might want to force her to go to school. But when Chase Andrews, the former football star, is found dead at the base of a tower, the sheriff suspects he’s been murdered, and attention is drawn to Marsh Girl.

I found this intriguing and interesting. I loved Owens’ descriptions of the marsh and the marvels of the natural world. And I appreciated Kya’s and Tate’s reverence for the ecosystem that the marsh provides.

I was invested in Kya’s story from the beginning, and her loneliness was practically tangible. I marveled at her resilience and intelligence; the way she learned to cook and to fend for herself. Yes, she had some help. Loved Jumpin’ - the proprietor of the local gas station / bait shop – and his wife Mabel who stepped in when they noticed the waif being on her own and simply offered her the assistance she so clearly needed. No questions asked and no payment expected. I also really liked the way that Tate slowly gained her trust and confidence, and the way he encouraged and supported her efforts to learn more about the flora and fauna of the marsh, not to mention teaching her to read and providing her with books so she could begin to educate herself.

However, this is where things got a little too unbelievable and soap-opera-ish for me. I kept wondering where everyone else in town was. Okay, Kya hid from the truant officer, but what about the other townspeople? Was there no kind librarian, teacher, minister, doctor, church lady who might recognize her distress and offer help? Seems that everyone knew about “the marsh girl” but no one, save Tate and Jumpin’, stepped in to help her. They simply labeled her and looked down on her as “trash.”

And then we have the whole murder mystery and the trial. After all that drama the ending seeming rather anti-climactic. If I had been reading the text, I may have just thrown it at the wall.

Cassandra Campbell does a fine job narrating the audiobook. She is an accomplished narrator, and I like the way she voiced the many characters. I’d give her 4**** for her performance. I wish she’d had better material to interpret in this case.
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LibraryThing member banjo123
I know this is a book that has lots of fans, but I am not one of them. This was Owens first novel, she definitely had a story she wanted to tell, and it's great that it resonated with a lot of people.

However, I thought the writing was lackluster, the dialect inconsistent and the plot and characters
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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.
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LibraryThing member CasSprout
Trite and foolish. Nice nature descriptions but the rest was stupid.


Dublin Literary Award (Longlist — 2020)
Edgar Award (Nominee — First Novel — 2019)
Macavity Award (Nominee — First Novel — 2019)
Independent Booksellers' Book Prize (Shortlist — Fiction — 2020)
3 Apples Book Award (Winner — Teens — 2023)
Australian Book Industry Awards (Shortlist — 2020)
BookTube Prize (Octofinalist — Fiction — 2019)
Crook's Corner Book Prize (Longlist — 2020)
Reese's Book Club (2018 — 2018)


0735219095 / 9780735219090


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