Monday, May 20, 2019

Book Review: Where the Crawdads Sing

Book Review: Where the Crawdads Sing on Review This!
Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens was such a beautifully written story that I am having difficulty moving on into any other books. The wait list for this book at the library is long. More than one friend insisted that I read this story. The editorial reviews are glowing. The hype is not wrong. I'm considering reading this story again, only a couple of weeks after finishing it - the story was that captivating. I can't stop thinking about Kya and the marsh life that surrounded her.
"Marsh is Not Swamp."
"Swamp water is still and dark, having swallowed the light in it's muddy throat."
Kya is a young girl, living with her family in a remote shack in the marshes of North Carolina. She is still very young as her broken family disintegrates and disappears. Initially, her explosive father remains and her survival skills begin to develop as she learns to navigate the moods of her father and the moods of the natural world. Beginning at age 6, we watch as the decades of Kya Clark's life unfold. Near the beginning of the story, with the exception of the gulls she feeds, she is completely alone. 
"Hands to her mouth, she held her head back and called "Kee-ow, kee-ow, kee-ow.' Specks of silver appeared in the sky from up and down the beach, from over the surf"
"Crying and screeching, the birds swirled and dived, hovering near her face, and landed as she tossed grits to them. Finally, they quieted and stood about preening, and she sat on the sand, her legs folded to the side. One large gull settled onto the sand near Kya."

" 'It's my birthday' she told the bird." 

The townspeople of Barkley Cove are aware of her. They call her "Marsh Girl". Collectively, they consider her a dirty oddity; literally an untouchable as a mother shields her child from contact during one of Kya's limited trips to the grocery store in town. 

Truancy folks tried to enforce school attendance. Mrs. Culpepper was able get Kya to attend one day, a difficult day, of school; the only positive experience being the chicken pie served at lunch. But after that day Kya decided to never return. And Kya, like any being attuned to living in the wild, was able to disappear each subsequent time Mrs. Culpepper arrived at the remote shack. 

Tate is a young local man. Kya knew him as her brother Jodie's friend. But her brother is gone.  Even so, Tate has been nearby and his quiet and gentle way of being allows them to form a tenuous bond.

Chase is the town hero - the Barkley Cove football star and the guy who got all the girls. If there are any stereotyped characters in this book, it is Chase. But then again, we've all known this guy, haven't we? And what girl who is alone and lonely, and who is becoming an adult, doesn't fall for the practiced charms of a guy like Chase at least once?

Jumpin' is the owner of a marina gas station. In an era where whites and blacks had separate schools and his family lived in Colored Town instead of Barkley Cove, Jumpin' did not have any pre-judgements about the child Mr. Clark had left alone. Kya found Jumpin to be an unlikely friend, mentor, and advisor.  Over time, Kya limits her shopping and bartering to Jumpin's store and avoids town altogether. When tragedy happens - Chase is found dead - Kya's solitary world in the marsh and the civilized world of town collide. Was it an accident or was it murder? And did that wild Marsh Girl, that Swamp Rat, kill the most popular guy in town?


"Tutored by millions of minutes of alone, Kya thought she knew lonely" 

Sometimes I read the book then watch the movie. Sometimes I watch the movie and then read the book. In this case, I highly recommend reading the book first. I can't imagine that a movie - even produced by Reese Witherspoon - will do this story of coming of age while surviving in the marshes justice. 

Ms. Owens knows how to write. Her descriptions of the natural surroundings paints a picture that is easy to imagine. After reading the book I felt as though I had spent the summer at the beach. My review does not come close to conveying the beauty of her prose and her ability to transport you to the location. I encourage you to read a sample of the book and decide for yourself if this is a story you'd like to lose yourself in.
"The morning burned so August-hot, the marsh's moist breath hung the oaks and pines with fog. The palmetto patches stood unusually quiet except for the low, slow flap of the heron's wings lifting from the lagoon. And then, Kya, only six at the time, heard the screen door slap."


Photo Credit: The photo was taken by and is the property of Dawn Rae and was taken in the marsh at North Point State Park, Baltimore, MD.



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8 comments:

  1. Thank you for this beautifully written review! This book sounds absolutely engrossing. It's going on my reading list right now.

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  2. Well, clearly I need to get on the list at my own local library now! You have definitely made me wish to start reading this book today, which would require me to put aside the book I am currently reading. Already my heart goes out to Kya.

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  3. The description of the marshland in Kya's section of North Carolina sounds so like the marsh in coastal Georgia I passed over so many times the past 20 years that I feel as if I know exactly where Kya lives. This story sounds like more than a 'coming of age' story. It could also be a description of loneliness and that of survival under cruel circumstances.

    Dawn, what you say about reading the book first is true. Some stories can only be told through the author's words and descriptions to fully do it justice. Jaws was the perfect example.

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  4. I read that this book was 10 years in the making/writing. Obviously, that was a decade well spent. The sense of place is what initially drew me to the book. I love atmospheric writing that clearly shows an intimacy with place (and nature). I look forward to delving further into this book. The quotes you selected are illuminating. Imagine being able to write like that. In my dreams!

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  5. Your review definitely makes this a must read ! Thanks for bringing this book to our attention!

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  6. I can see why this book appealed so much to you. I think I put myself on a waiting list at my library some time ago, or that I recommended they get it. I don't remember which. I know I read a review of it way back that made me want to read it, too. But I trust your reviews even more. I hope I can get my hands on it when I have time to read it. Thank you for a great review.

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  7. Another book that sounds interesting. Every time a read a book review on reviewthis I want to read the book! Excellent review.

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  8. Okay this one is going on my "to read soon" list. I love these kinds of stories with characters that look to nature to teach them what they need to know.....sounds wonderful and captivating.

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