Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Where The Crawdads Sing by Della Owens

Where The Crawdads Sing
by Della Owens
Published August 2018 by Penguin Publishing Group
Source: good question - did I buy it or did my mom loan me her copy?

Publisher's Summary:
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. 

Where the Crawdads Sing is at once an exquisite ode to the natural world, a heartbreaking coming-of-age story, and a surprising tale of possible murder. Owens reminds us that we are forever shaped by the children we once were, and that we are all subject to the beautiful and violent secrets that nature keeps.

My Thoughts:
My book club, like so many others, wanted to read this book so I added it to our list for 2020 and requested the book club bag from the library at the beginning of October of 2019. When Covid shut down the library, we were were still several months from getting the bag. We finally gave up in November and we all had to find our own copies. Which is all a long way to say that I've inadvertently put off reading this book until the giant buzz around it died down. That's usually a good thing for me and this book was no exception. 

Owens writes about the North Carolina coastal area beautifully and I would really enjoy reading a nonfiction book by her about the area. The setting may well be the most interesting character in this book.
“Marsh is not swamp. Marsh is a space of light, where grass grows in water, and water flows into the sky. Slow-moving creeks wander, carrying the orb of the sun with them to the sea, and long-legged birds lift with unexpected grace—as though not built to fly—against the roar of a thousand snow geese. Then within the marsh, here and there, true swamp crawls into low-lying bogs, hidden in clammy forests. Swamp water is still and dark, having swallowed the light in its muddy throat. Even night crawlers are diurnal in this lair. There are sounds, of course, but compared to the marsh, the swamp is quiet because decomposition is cellular work. Life decays and reeks and returns to the rotted duff; a poignant wallow of death begetting life.”
Not only does Owens do a lovely job of showing us this part of the country she clearly loves, but she uses her knowledge of it to give us clues to what will happen in the book. If, by some chance, you have not already read this book, I certainly recommend that you pay attention to these parts of the book, not just because they are well written, but because if you don't, later you will absolutely wonder what you missed. 

I picked up this book in print and discovered that holding a book was just what I needed after so many audio and e-books. It certainly enhanced my experience of the book. I will admit that, because I started the book too close to my book club meeting, I will admit that I did skip almost all of the poetry Owens included in it (which, as it turned out, also held clues). 

As for the story, I have mixed feelings. It required a tremendous amount of suspension of disbelief and I wasn't able to quite muster up as much of that as it would have required to love the book. There was some dialogue that felt stiff to me and many of the characters felt like stereotypes to me. Some were too good to be true, some had almost no redeeming characteristics. It also brought to mind other books I've read that took place in the same or similar setting (such as those by Pat Conroy, Sarah Addison Allen, and Jesmyn Ward's Salvage The Bones); periodically I had the feeling I'd read this book before. 

So, in the end, I didn't love it. But then I wasn't expecting to love it. Despite those shortcomings, I did still enjoy this book. Despite almost unceasing sadness, it was a good break for me from all of the heavy nonfiction reading I've been doing and I found myself racing through it. 


  1. I've heard about this book of course, though I've not read it. The sadness is a query for me. Don't want sadness at this time. This pandemic is enough of a burden.

  2. I'll admit that I have never been able to guess at what this book is about from the summary alone but so many have recommended it that it never feels like the right time to read it. Good point about making sure to read all the passages and poetry.

  3. What you said about suspending your disbelief? Agree. I enjoyed it and liked the nature bits but the story had a lot of holes in it.