Where the Crawdads Sing
© 2018 Delia Owens
‘There are some who can live without wild things, and some who cannot.’” – Aldous Leopold, The Sand County Almanac
They called her the Marsh Girl. Abandoned in a decaying shack as a child and treated as trash by most of the village, young Kya survives only through her understanding of the wetlands which surround her. In them she finds not only sustenance – mussels and fish, some which she barters for other supplies – but also shelter from the kids who delight in abusing her. But more than that, the wetlands are a constant source of wonder for Kya, who fills her time drawing the life around her and collecting shells and feathers. A rare few people will recognize her passion and potential, and try to nurture her – but others will seek, out of fear or greed, to abuse and destroy her. Where the Crawdads Sing is a fascinating character novel delivered in rich prose that truly immerses the reader in both the marsh and the girl who grew up there.
I described Crawdads as a character novel, because Kya’s struggle to survive, and then to make something of her relationships with the marsh and with a few people around her, makes the novel – that, and its abounding references to wetland ecology. Kya learns to read from The Sand County Almanac, a collection of essays on nature and conversation, and her lifelong deep study of the marsh makes her both the foremost expert in its flora and fauna, and an advocate for its conservation. Both elements of the novel have their beauty; the descriptions of the marshlands are the best I’ve ever read, and I found Kya a fascinating mix of wild and rational. I was wholly invested in her story, never more so when she was accused and hunted for a mysterious death in the marsh.