Kya Clark lives in the marshlands of North Carolina in the 1950s alone after being abandoned by her family. She survives by foraging in the marshes and selling mussels. In 1969, a young man called Chase Andrews living in the nearby town and known to Kya when they spend some time together, was found dead in the swamp. Police investigate, Kya is charged with his murder, and a trial is held.
“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.”
“Female fireflies draw in strange males with dishonest signals and eat them; mantis females devour their own mates. Female insects, Kya thought, know how to deal with their lovers.”
“Go as far as you can – way out yonder where the crawdads sing.” … “Just means far in the bush where critters are wild, still behaving like critters.”
This is a story that thoroughly immerses the reader in the setting – the marshlands of North Carolina. The author uses not only detailed descriptions of the setting, but also uses the characters’ thoughts and feelings to impart a sense of place. I particularly loved the way the author described animal mating behaviours relatable to the main character’s thoughts and feelings. The back and forth structure that converges towards the end works well, but I found the ending too neatly tied up. Highly recommended.
Guardian: “Though set in the 1950s and 60s, Where the Crawdads Sing is, in its treatment of racial and social division and the fragile complexities of nature, obviously relevant to contemporary politics and ecology. But these themes will reach a huge audience though the writer’s old-fashioned talents for compelling character, plotting and landscape description.”
Kirkus: “… the novel’s weaknesses have become apparent: the monochromatic characterization (good boy Tate, bad boy Chase) and implausibilities (Kya evolves into a polymath—a published writer, artist, and poet), yet the closing twist is perhaps its most memorable oddity. Despite some distractions, there’s an irresistible charm to Owens’ first foray into nature-infused romantic fiction.