Poignant novel set in North Carolina (a future classic)

18th March 2019

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens, novel set in North Carolina.

“There are some who can live without wild things, and some who cannot”

Poignant novel set in North Carolina

For months now – since it was the September 2018 Reece Witherspoon Hello Sunshine Book Club choice – I have seen nothing but glowing reviews of this seminal novel. It will, I am sure become a classic in its own right (there, I have already given away how I feel about the book!). The actress has also optioned the film rights for it.

This is the story of Kya, shortened from Catherine Danielle, who lives in the swampy marshes of North Caroline, not far from Asheville. Her mother walked out on her when she was young  and she still has visions of her departure, suitcase in hand, faux snakeskin shoes, tripping her way down the track and out of sight. Her older siblings have also abandoned life in the little homestead, leaving her with her oftentimes drunk and violent father; he is around less and less as he fritters away any income, there is money neither for food nor clothes. To all intents and purposes she is abandoned by those who are important in her life and she is tasked with raising herself, this little “marsh girl” who has nothing in her life but the nature surrounding their hovel. The birds and wildlife are her companions. Oh, and she has access to her father’s small boat which gives her some mobility. She is adept at cruising the waterways.

Years pass and her loneliness becomes entrenched. Tate is drawn to this skinny young girl but ultimately he forsakes her for his studies, leaving her abandoned once again. Soon she is befriended by Chase, a dapper young man about town, a womaniser and who, we know, is found dead at the outset of the novel lying at the bottom of the Fire Tower. Natural suspicion amongst the nearby townsfolk falls on Kya because she is an oddball, she lives in poverty, she is different…. and she is female. Remember this is a time in American history when there was discrimination against anyone who was different to the overwhelmingly white populace. The author has an acute eye for capturing people, prejudices and small town life.

Kya, surrounded by the natural world starts to record what she sees and experiences. This holds her in good stead as her life develops. Yet she is no match as a single, lonely girl for the bigoted views held by those around her. A storm of prejudice and a need to see justice done, at any cost, whips through the community, targeting her as the only viable suspect in the murder case.

Loneliness is a theme throughout the novel that makes this a particularly heartfelt and poignant story.

What makes this a fabulous read are the rich descriptions, the language and the languorous pace that, just like the waterways, move the story along at just the right tempo. The setting comes to life beautifully. The writing and storytelling has been compared to the work of Barbara Kingsolver and I can really see why!

The title comes from common parlance in the area and means …far in the bush where critters are wild, still behaving like critters…

I was sad when this book came to an end and it is still vibrantly with me, a couple of weeks down the line. It indeed has all the hallmarks of a future classic!


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