Staff Review – Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

“Where the Crawdads Sing” by Delia Owens was published in 2018 and was quickly chosen to join Reese Witherspoon’s bookclub, opens a new window. Naturally, this helped launch the novel into even more fame, and it has been a top-pick for readers ever since. Here at TBPL, it was the 5th most circulated adult fiction book of 2021, opens a new window. “Where the Crawdads Sing” is a beautiful novel that can generally be put into two categories – a coming-of-age novel, and a murder mystery. As a reader, I was curious how these two general plots would work together, but they really do. The novel begins in 1953 when we meet 6 year old Kya, just as her mother walks away from her five children and abusive, alcoholic husband. One by one, the others leave until Kya is left alone in the marsh to survive on her own. The townspeople refer to her as “the Marsh Girl”, calling her dirty, stupid, and more. As we follow Kya and her journey from girl to woman, we are also taken to 1969, where the town’s golden boy, Chase Andrews, is dead – possibly murdered. It doesn’t take long for the locals to point their finger at Kya – the outsider, who was once romantically linked to Chase. Everyone loved Chase Andrews, so no normal person would ever murder him, and as far as the town of Barkley Cove is concerned, Kya is not normal.

There is a slow, almost haunting quality to this book. Since Kya spends the vast majority of her childhood and early adulthood alone, Owens captures that isolation in the writing, focusing intently on the environment around Kya, as for much of her life, that is all she has. My connection to Kya grew over time, and as the novel went on, I felt more protective of this little girl (and then young woman) who had been treated so poorly throughout her life. Abandoned time and time again, Kya learned to take care of herself and not rely on anyone. Twice she began to fall in love, first with her only friend Tate (who taught Kya to read and so much more), and then with Chase. Both of these relationships taught her something, as do any romantic endeavors.

Much like the marsh itself, this novel is full of secrets. As Kya grows and lives her life, many different secrets are revealed, both to her and about her. The reader is left in awe after each revelation, some much more traumatic than others. The idea that no one is trustworthy is something that Kya decides to live by as she grows up, since she has been abandoned so many times. The marsh is her only constant, this environment full of life and beauty. Reading the novel, I felt that the marsh became a metaphor for Kya herself – beautiful and pure, yet misunderstood and overlooked by the townspeople. The people of Barkley Cove think they know both Kya and the marsh, but they truly don’t understand either. As Kya begins to enlighten people about the marsh, so too are they enlightened about Kya, perhaps thinking she is more than just “the Marsh Girl”.

As mentioned, this book belongs to Reese’s Book Club, and she loved the novel so much, she decided to make it into a movie, opens a new window – which has just come out on July 15th! We also have this gorgeous novel available as a book club in a bag, so you and your book club can easily enjoy and discuss the novel too! If you’re looking for something with depth and heart, pick up Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens today!