Publish Date: August 14, 2018
“Sand keeps secrets better than mud.” – Where the Crawdads Sing
For years, rumors of the “Marsh Girl” have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl. But Kya is not what they say. Sensitive and intelligent, she has survived for years alone in the marsh that she calls home, finding friends in the gulls and lessons in the sand. Then the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. When two young men from town become intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new life—until the unthinkable happens.
“There are some who can live without wild things, and some who cannot.” – Where the Crawdads Sing
This book is a fascinating look at a different time and a different way of life that was entirely unknown to me. It has beautiful writing, and intricate plot, complex and likable characters, and it lingered in my mind long after I finished it.
This story is about abandonment, loneliness, loss, survival, determination, longing, hope, prejudice, and nature. It has lessons in determination and strength. It’s about living off of the land, understanding your surroundings, and giving back to it.
The book takes place in Barkley Cove, a North Carolina marsh. What is a marsh, anyway? According to Wikipedia, a marsh is a wetland that is dominated by herbaceous rather than woody plant species. They are often dominated by grasses, rushes or reeds. Marshes provide habitats for many kinds of invertebrates, fish, amphibians, waterfowl and aquatic mammals. The Marsh is an important character in this story.
Life in Barkley Cove is harsh, beautiful, and at times, unforgiving. It’s a miracle that the main character, Kya, survives in the Marsh living by herself, aching with loneliness for years. She has lived a life of solitude since she was six years old, with no companions other than wildlife. Kya’s tenacity is astounding and she has me feeling sad and inspired at the same time. At first I didn’t know if Kya is Caucasian, or African-American. There aren’t many clues initially, but slowly I figured out that she’s white.
“She knew the years of isolation had altered her behavior until she was different from others, but it wasn’t her fault she’d been alone. Most of what she knew, she’d learned from the wild. Nature had nurtured, tutored, and protected her when no one else would.” – Where the Crawdads Sing
The prose is lovely and descriptive and makes me feel like I’m experiencing the Marsh for myself. Delia Owens is a wildlife scientist that obtained her doctorate degree at the University of California, Davis. It explains the atmospheric way that she is able to describe the marsh setting and the wildlife that lives there. She writes about the beautiful waterfowl abundance like herons, egrets, and horned owls, and the sea life including fish, shrimp, and mussels. This kind of existence is about living on the absolute essentials, and it makes me think about life today and how differently we are living it.
This story is also about love and human connections. Kya is living off the grid, but even with her naivete about relationships, she unconsciously yearns for them and forms connections with 2 boys, Tate and Chase, who become central to the story. Love happens organically no matter the time or place, even for the Marsh Girl who lives in the wild. The potential murder aspect of the story is suspenseful and lends an air of mystery.
I loved the characters, especially Kya, Tate, and the couple Jumpin’ and Mabel who are so kind to Maya. The last quarter of the book has a To Kill a Mockingbird feel to it. I adored TKAM so of course I enjoyed it.
The back country plot line reminds me of Leave No Trace by Mindy Mejia, where some of the main characters live off of the land for many years. If you like that book, you will adore this one too.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Note: I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher through Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.