Where the Crawdads Sing

Written by Delia Owens
Review by Janice Ottersberg

In 1952, 10-year-old Kya Clark is growing up in the coastal marshes of North Carolina, alone and abandoned. Her Ma walked out of her life. Her brothers and sisters drifted away to their own lives. Finally, her drunken Pa leaves. In 1969, the body of Chase Andrews, the town’s golden boy, is discovered in the marsh. Was it an accident or murder?

The story alternates between Kya’s life growing up in the marsh and the death investigation until the two storylines merge in 1969 and a murder trial in 1970. Young Kya is learning to survive on her own in the old family shack and in the wilds of the marshes. She hides amongst the trees and observes others who come to fish or play and picnic on the beach. She avoids the town because she is an object of ridicule for her strange ways, but outside town, Jumpin’ and Mabel from the black community befriend and help her. Her spirit thrives in the marsh, with the seagulls as her closest companions, and she spends her days studying the wildlife, collecting feathers and shells, and becoming an expert of the natural world around her. She watches a young boy, Tate, fishing. He sees her, and when she gains the courage to approach, he gives her friendship, teaches her to read, and brings her books.

Kya’s loneliness and heartbreak each time someone abandons her are palpable and heart-wrenching. We feel her yearning to connect with others and to be loved. Owens adeptly alternates plotlines, which creates the anticipation of what is to come. Both Kya and the marsh are the main characters of this immersive and moving story of love and belonging mixed with mystery and suspense. This is a deeply affecting novel, lyrical and unforgettable.