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)

User reviews

LibraryThing member Zoes_Human
DNF at page 50.

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.… (more)
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 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 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.… (more)
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 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 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 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 lvmygrdn
Loved this book. I will miss Kya, Jumpin' and Mabel.
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 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 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 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 dara85
This book was so atmospheric. The writing was excellent. I hope Owens writes more fiction.
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 this young girl. Beautifully told, and heartwarming story.… (more)
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 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...
LibraryThing member Itzey
“What d’ya mean, where the crawdads sing? Ma used to say that”, [said Kya]… Tate said, “Just means far in the bush where critters are wild, still behaving like critters.

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.
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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 TooBusyReading
About 25 pages before the end of this book, I stopped reading for awhile. Not because I was bored but because I so badly wanted it to end well, and I was afraid it would break my little fiction-loving heart. Did my heart break? I'm not telling.

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.… (more)
LibraryThing member ParadisePorch
Beautiful descriptions of the North Carolina marsh country, but a frustrating story. AND it's essentially a romance masquerading as a mystery. I really don't like romance - the endings are too pat.


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