Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
I admit, the swamps and marshland of North Carolina aren’t my usual go-to setting for a novel. But in Where the Crawdads Sing, Owens paints such a beautiful picture of this region and demonstrates such care and knowledge of nature beyond aesthetics, that you can’t help being swept away in the peace, light and beauty of coastal Carolina.
As a young girl, Kya is abandoned by everyone in her family. Alone in the family shack on the marshlands of North Carolina with only the seagulls for company, Kya must learn to survive on her own.
But Kya is resourceful and resilient and has talents she doesn’t know exist. Throughout the story, she forms connections with a handful of people from the town. Some of these people become firm friends and an anchor for Kya as she navigates life alone in her marshland home. Others arrive, only to leave her hurt and adrift, with renewed feelings of distrust and abandonment.
As well as weaving a careful story of Kya’s journey through her teen and young adult years, there is also the unraveling story of the town’s star quarterback, Chase Andrews, who has been found dead in the marsh. Soon, Kya, the ‘Marsh Girl’, is the prime suspect and facing a future in prison, far away from the safety and comfort of her beloved marsh.
Where the Crawdads Sing is the debut novel by Delia Owens, a 70 year old, retired wildlife biologist. Prior to penning her first novel, a New York Times article describes Owens as ‘a reclusive, 70-year-old scientist, whose previous published works chronicled the decades she spent in the deserts and valleys of Botswana and Zambia’.
Perhaps understandably then, the publisher originally only published 28,000 copies of the book. Two years later, Where the Crawdads Sing has sold 8 million copies worldwide. It has topped the New York Times Fiction Best Sellers of 2019 and 2020 for a combined 100 non-consecutive weeks.
I love that this same New York Times article quotes Owens as saying “I have never connected with people the way I have with my readers…….I wasn’t expecting that.” Seems as though there might more than a little of the author reflected in spirited, nature-loving, loner, Kya.
Published 2019 by Hachette Australia, 384 pages.