Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

I've joined the thousands of other readers who have jumped on the crawdad wagon (or boat). I've been reading recently that Delia Owens has the distinct honor of having the one fiction book that in the past few years  has sold over 1 million copies in hardcover. The novel in second place comes in at around 750,000 copies sold in hardcover. That's a heck of a lot of books sent out in the world, and that doesn't even count the ebooks and audio books purchased!  Pretty impressive for a first novel, wouldn't you say?

So what is it about Where the Crawdads Sing that resonates so deeply with so many people? I think it's a few things, at least that was the case for me. Kya, oh Lord, she broke my heart. It took me quite a while to be able to come to terms with the fact that her entire family abandoned a little girl and left her alone to fend for herself. And the townsfolk of Barkley Cove did nothing to help this little girl. How she survived and thrived are the magic of the story. Nature-the marsh and all the wonders it held nurtured and protected her. The marsh was her mother, her provider, her teacher, her friend. Kya loved it as she would her family, and the relationship between Kya and the marsh are the foundation of this amazing story. 

Delia Owens' writing makes you wish for a secluded cabin, a boat, and time alone. Kya's life is rough--nearly penniless, she survives on grits and what she can gather from the marsh. Uneducated, until Tate comes along, and teaches her to read. Jumping' and Mabel were the closest folks she had to family, and their relationship sustained her through some rough times. Tate, the boy who loved the Marsh Girl with all he had, but still hurt her. And there is the mystery of Chase Andrew's death on that October night in 1969. The story bounces back and forth between the early 1950's and 1970, as Kya's story unfolds.  

Kya is one of those unforgettable characters that you don't often meet in fiction. How this little girl grew to be a brilliant naturalist, purely because she so loved the marsh and everything in it, is an unforgettable story. The writing is effortless, and simply stunning. It makes you itch to grab a sketch pad and sit somewhere and observe nature. It reminded me of my fascination with the children's book Pagoo by Holling C. Holling when I was a child. I actually spent time attempting to recreate the illustrations about Pagoo, the hermit crab and his life in the tide pool. I still have that book, and love to look at it. 

But this novel isn't just about a young girl surviving in the marsh. It's about family, abandonment, stereotypes, shunning others who we see as different, prejudice, conforming to society's expectations, and most of all, love and trust. And oh, by golly, strength to get through the worst life can hand you and come out the other side and into a new day. 

So yes, if you haven't read this, please do. It will give you a new appreciation for nature, and the beauty around us that we seem to cavalierly destroy just for the sake of progress. And read it because it's a damn good story. 

Rating: 6/6 for a multi-layered novel about a young girl raising herself in the marshes of North Carolina during the 1950's and 1960's. You will smell the water, squish the mud between your toes, and feel the breeze on your face. 

Available in hardcover, ebook, and audio. 

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