|Book Review: Where the Crawdads Sing on Review This!|
"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"
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."
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