Where the Crawdads Sing is a beautifully emotive novel about a young woman named Kya Clark. It is a story about isolation, resilience and enduring hope – something perhaps we can all relate to now more than ever. Turning the pages of this book, I was carried far away to the marsh lands of North Carolina, deep into the swamp where Kya lives alone in a falling-down shack. Abandoned by her family and outcast from the town, Kya must learn to provide for herself and survive as an outcast.
It is Kya’s love of nature and her boundless fascination with the wildlife of the marshland that sustains her through many years of heartache. The story moves backwards and forwards in time, recounting the chapters of her early life as she grows into adult hood alone in the swamp. When she meets Tate, a kindly boy from the local town, she begins to hope for a future filled with meaning and connection. Yet, the reality of the world beyond her rickety shack in the marshes threatens every hope and dream she has left.
This moving, poetic and captivating story tells readers that every person, no matter how self-isolated and distant, longs for interaction and human touch. Even if you are so far removed from a community, or a family, we all have an innate need to be loved.
The other theme that struck me while reading this novel was, of course, Mother Nature. In the absence of a mother and siblings, Kya turns to the marsh for a sense of belonging and kinship. She protects the land and takes comfort in the birdsong. Her community is not the snooty townspeople, but the gulls that she feeds and the insects she studies. Author, Delia Owens, is an American wildlife scientist and, as such, she makes Nature a central character in her novel.
Although this book is technically a ‘murder mystery’ (as is revealed in the opening pages), it has far more to say about abandonment, judgement and the treatment of women than it does fingerprints and crime scenes. Kya’s life resonates with us readers now more than ever. This novel teaches us the importance of caring for everyone in our community, despite our differences, and shines a light on struggles of the most isolated people who live invisibly, on the outskirts of society.
What did you think of Kya’s story?