The land on the North Carolina coast is sparse and empty of people. It’s a place where time has settled and nature has reclaimed forgotten wilderness. The novel “Where the Crawdads Sing” takes place in this untouched landscape, but how did it come to be? What brought people to this remote area of the country? And what does writing about a fictional small town in this area tell us about America today?
“Where the Crawdads Sing” follows Dede, an African-American girl living in poverty with her family off-season at Mudtowne, a small seaside town on North Carolina’s Outer Banks.
From the Publisher
Where the Crawdads Sing Calendar Where the Crawdads Sing Puzzle Where the Crawdads Sing 2022 Wall Calendar Where the Crawdads Sing 1000-piece Puzzle
Amazon Customer –
I love this book. I purchased it so I’d have something to read on vacation, and it was the perfect book to take.From the first page, I got lost in the marshes of North Carolina, and the world in which the heroine Kya lives. Time jumps forward and back, but jumps perfectly to keep the stories past and current (1969) simultaneously moving to the climax. The stories kept me so enraptured that I literally stayed up half the night to finish it. I couldn’t put the book down for anything. And I’m glad.Crawdads felt very much like To Kill a Mockingbird. Simple time, southern home town, prejudice, murder, and a trial with a defense attorney similar to the beloved Atticus Finch. The descriptions of the people, town, marsh, and wildlife, make you feel as if you are there experiencing everything with the characters. And the story will keep you guessing until the end.When I turned the last page, part of me was extremely disappointed only because I didn’t want the story to end. It’s a rare book that can pull me in so completely, and this one did just that. I just wanted to keep reading, and reading, and reading.Order this book, and carve out a quiet space and time so you can immerse yourself. Get comfy with a box of Kleenex and prepare for a journey to the marshes of the South, back in the sixties before technology we enjoy today, when you could slow down long enough to feed the seagulls on the beach, and search for shells and feathers in the warm breeze of the North Carolina coast.
Micki Johnson –
This book was both sad and beautiful at the same time! Kya is a young girl that was slowly abandoned by her family and left with an abusive father that eventually leaves her as well. She was ridiculed and rejected by people in town and was known as “The Marsh Girl”. With limited resources or help, she had to overcome many obstacles by learning how to take care of herself and survive in the marsh alone. She had to learn how to earn enough money to feed herself and cook for herself. This is beautifully written! I can not wait to see the movie based off of this book!
Amazon Customer –
Growing up in the south, my English classes in high school were filled to the brim with southern literature. Naturally, I developed a loathing for them. On top of that, I’ve never been a fan of historical fiction or any books that jump around a timeline.That being said.I loved this book with every inch of my heart. I feel in love with the marsh, with the painting of nature and life that Delia Owens presented. This book truly was a masterpiece, from start to end. The descriptions pulled you in, and the characters held you in a tight hold. It got a grip on my heart, and I spent a lot of time (especially at the end) crying. By the end of it, I felt so emotionally spent – in the best way. This book is a modern classic, and I know that I’ll be rereading it many times over the years.
David W. Johnson –
What I liked most about this book is the depictions of believably real (though fictional) characters challenged by real-life issues, with the characters’ basic motivations well described and integrated into a story of how the characters succeed or fail against their challenges, and why. I believe the philosophical term for literature of this kind is “metaphysical values.”(I haven’t seen the movie so far but probably will see it eventually. Meanwhile, the various trailers that I’ve seen seem to indicate that the novel’s main spirit may have been badly mangled in the movie, possibly to emphasize issues such as racial prejudice and other forms of bias against those who are “different,” and other contemporary concerns. From various critical reviews on this website, it also appears that the story itself may have greatly misrepresented what North Carolina was actually like in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s. But I don’t see geographical or historical accuracy as necessarily essential to a fictional story concretizing important metaphysical values.)At the end of the novel, in the Q&A with the author (pp. 376-377), there is a very concise description of what the book is about. The story follows the life of a young girl named “Kya” living mostly alone in fictional marshlands in North Carolina from age 6 to her death from natural causes (unexpected heart failure) at age 64. It’s a story of how she survives with minimal help from anyone else. A child of 6 wouldn’t have been able to survive alone for long without significant knowledge and experience gained from interaction with other humans, and she did receive minimal interaction with her mother, brother, father, brother’s friend Tate (later Kya’s first lover and eventual husband after a fateful 2nd love with Chase Andrews), and a married (black) couple in the nearby fictional town of Barkley Cove. Tate and Chase both disappoint Kya deeply, Chase so strongly that Kya becomes the prime suspect when Chase is found dead, apparently murdered. (Chase lied to her about potentially marrying her, and he even tried to rape her, causing her to fear that Chase would keep trying again and again by force.) Before Tate leaves her while he goes to college, she learns to read with Tate’s help. He also gives her many old books to read, mostly on life science. She apparently never receives access to any books in literature, history, philosophy, or other general humanities subjects. She remains forever shy and defensive toward most other people despite becoming highly adept at studying the wild animals and plants in the marsh, writing books of her own on her observations, becoming successful as a published author, and painting vivid sketches of what she observed. Along the way, she also learns to count beyond 29 and to count money and make change, again with help from Tate and others.At her trial for the murder of Chase, the prosecution presents serious evidence against her, but the evidence isn’t quite strong enough to obtain a guilty verdict from the jury (beyond reasonable doubt). She has an especially good alibi, although it has weaknesses that leave room to doubt her innocence. Since there are also reasonable doubts about her guilt, the jury verdict is “not guilty.” One key piece of evidence, a “shell necklace,” remains missing until the very last page of the story, shortly after Kya’s death, when Tate (whom she had married by then) finds it. For those who want to be surprised, I won’t say more about the details of the ending. Kya certainly would have had to be incredibly resourceful and daring, perhaps far larger than real life, to have been able to construct such a convincing alibi, if she actually was the murderer. The symbolic parallel to the mating rituals of fireflies provides a strong hint about Kya’s mental state.The events of the story are mainly just the backdrop. The story’s main focus is on how Kya felt and how she learned so much about nature and life sciences from her own direct observations and from books that she read, without ever attending school at any level for more than one deeply unpleasant day at age 6. Despite how little she learned about humanities subjects and how to deal with other people, the story depicts her as focused on the reality that she was exposed to, and on how she used her natural intellectual capacity to make sense of it as best she could. She certainly functioned on a reality-is-real premise, though without explicitly identifying that premise or comprehending its higher implications for human living; she also felt her emotions without any explicit appeal to any greater mysticism or other-worldly perspective. (Kya shows no superstitiousness or religious worship of natural phenomena.) But the story doesn’t attempt to delve further than that into issues of values, why man needs them, and how best to choose and pursue one’s values. With access to books, Kya surely would have had the opportunity to do such deeper reading in real life, even if she remained otherwise isolated from most other people throughout her life. She had Tate, along with the two adult townspeople, her publisher, and to some extent her brother Jodie — all of whom provided emotional support to her during her trial. She is a heroine of sorts, though a severely stunted and crippled one, especially emotionally toward others.The author describes the story as “primarily about self-reliance, survival and how isolation affects human behavior. Since our species is a social mammal, we have strong genetic tendencies to belong to a group of tightly bonded family and friends.” (P. 376.) What “genetic tendencies” does this refer to? How much personal choice do humans have? Man has a non-automatic rational faculty on which he needs to depend for his survival. But he also needs a lot of help from others, especially family, along the way as he proceeds from the stage of a newborn infant to adult life. Without such help in childhood, the stunted growth that may hinder a child’s development and readiness for adult living should not be surprising. A more heroic kind of story might explore more fully how much more a person can learn about life from books, and how events might unfold as such a person strives to apply such learnings in practice. Kya certainly makes a valiant and largely successful effort, which, for me, makes Crawdads excellent as far as it goes.
Farah Abu Hmaidan –
Where The Crawdads Sing starts out as a slow-paced book with a writing style that’s hard to get into in the beginning. It starts out not really making any sense and slowly the puzzle is being completed piece by piece.When the book starts with a murder, one would think it is the main theme of the book or would be the thing a reader would be interested in the most. However, her life and her story take the lead with this book and Delia Owens marvelously leaves no chance for you not to connect with Kya – The Marsh Girl.I felt for her and I rooted for her and I was angry at her throughout this book. And the writing style was out of this world. The amount of times I reread sentences just to ponder over how beautiful they were or how one could even make a description as such. A truly unexpected reaction to a book that seems very mainstream. I’m writing this as I had just finished the book and perhaps after some time, more thoughts will come to mind but until then, this book is one of the top 5 books and certainly one that tugs on your heartstrings.
Jim Muccio –
I just finished reading (and crying through) the first novel by naturalist Delia Owens entitled, “Where the Crawdads Sing”. She has achieved a literary feat uncommon to naturalists, let alone novelists. 67 weeks at the top? Her readers are not wrong. But first, let’s talk about crawdads…Do they sing? No. They are tiny freshwater lobsters that live underwater. They only sing, as do Maine, and rock lobsters, when you put them in a pot of boiling water and the steam expands through their exoskeleton. So no, they do not sing, nor do they do anything else that can remotely be depicted as human. However, the phrase, “Where the crawdads, sing”, is fully defined by Owens thus cannot be confused in her novel The reference to their presumed music as defined by Owens is one of her many uses of a colloquialism. She spells it out using the complete phrase, “ Way out yonder where the crawdads sing”. More context for the less colloquial is that the full phrase means in the middle of nowhere. Which is exactly where the story takes place. In the middle of nowhere. It takes place in a marsh (not a swamp, there’s a difference) along some stretch of coast on the eastern seaboard of the United States. The exact location doesn’t exist. It’s fictional. Owens includes a map, which I referenced frequently. Mind you, this is no Narnia, this is no Middle Earth, but this is as real a place, even more real, than any presumed backdrop for any other great novel. West Egg for instance. Just like West Egg on the north shore of Long Island, this marsh on the eastern shore of North Carolina cannot be found on any map, nevertheless, it’s a place I would like to visit.The phrase, thus, refers to being beyond the most remote area of the wild as possible. Off the map, off the grid. Way out yonder where the crawdads sing. A place, very different from, and as remote as, any place in Africa where Owens spent much of her professional life as a naturalist. Beyond anything we know, the marsh she created is truly in the middle of nowhere. It is here where the main character, Kya, finds herself alone. She has been left alone by family and most of humanity. We are witness to the abandonment. As a little girl she is forced to live on her own and survive in the wild. Shades of Jody Foster from the movie Nell…except she speaks English and she has a lot more food to eat. That is, if you like seafood. Mussels and smoked fish, and whatever sprouts from a shabby wild vegetable garden. She was not raised by wolves, or gorillas, but instead by the marsh itself. And a lot of seagulls and other sea birds. The marsh is her mother. Most of us couldn’t fathom the life of Kya–essentially on her own since age seven. Think about that for a moment…if you don’t cry…you should. I cried three times in the first 125 pages of the story. I cried 4 or 5 more times before the end of the story.This book, I presume since Owens is well read having spent a lot of time on her own, crosses many genres. Her naturalist side shines through as the wild is on display on every page. Yet her story is a murder mystery since the body of Chase Andrews is found dead in the marsh in the prologue. She uses poetry frequently. Her own poetry, which is quite good. And of course, it is a love story of deep dimension. Difficult–to say the least–because finding love in the middle of nowhere is not easy. Unless you find it within yourself. One can’t say it’s a coming of age story, since the novel spans all of Kya’s lifetime…but yes…a Marsh Girl can come of age…and have it all. And of course there is the courtroom scene related to the murder. Pick an author, Grisham, perhaps. We shall see when Hollywood releases their version in a few months how Owens dialogue holds up to Perry Mason. Will the courtroom dialogue be credible? Despite Kya’s profound literacy, which you will discover on her journey, Kya doesn’t pull a Lisbeth Salander (Stieg Larsson) and turn the tables on the court. She’s more humble, crippled outside her marsh, withdrawn from the process, meditating, and mostly concerned with the cat who lives in the court house. If you are rooting for her, as I was, prepare for another bout of tears.The book is a page turner because this story jumps from the pages and comes alive in your mind. Kya is real. She is alive. She will now exist in literature just as Captain Ahab and his whale. Kya and her Marsh. Owens brought her to life through her thoughts, her paintings, her poetry, and her music. Perhaps the best apologetic for an absent family, Owens walks through the conditions that must have been present for those responsible for her abandonment to receive forgiveness. As well as those who cared, but not enough, to keep her isolated. The reckoning, in the courtroom, was perhaps insufficient. Justice could never be served for the rising fear and prejudice visited upon this young girl by a town full of ignorant people. Yet some did rise above, in their own way, and Kya understood. It’s her understanding of human nature, through the eyes of our own evolution that shows us that we are not too far removed from the animal kingdom. There but for the grace of God…not into the fires of hell but rather into the bountiful Garden of Eden–the Marsh. The sins of the animal kingdom cannot be judged as sins–as when an injured mother fox leaves her kits in order to survive to another day where perhaps she may rear another litter when survival is more certain. Can the momma fox be judged?This is perhaps Owen’s legacy. Crawdads don’t sing–a fiction at best and anthropomorphism at worst. She knows it. Animals do not take on human characteristics. Only the truly ignorant would believe things move in that direction. Fake naturalists such as Elizabeth Marshall Thomas (The Hidden Life of Dogs) springs to mind as the purveyor of such garbage. Rather we can now look to Owens as the author of something as profound and insightful as from the true greats like Henry David Thoreau who wrote, “In wildness is the preservation of the world”. Here is where Owens lives. Here is where Owens sings. Her voice a whisper above the din but a true voice calling out in the wilderness to be heard above the wind through the palmetto trees or the waves crashing on the sand leading into the marsh. To the gulls who circle above the beach and are friends with Kya as she sleeps. To the other wildlife that saunter by her without pause. She is one of them, not the other way around. Justice, therefore, is a natural one and subscribes to nature’s law. Balance in this natural world can always be restored. This is the true beauty of Owens’ novel and no doubt the key to her success. Five-Stars for Owen’s first novel and this literary feat. A must read for everyone who claims they read books. Kya will stay with me, and you, forever…
Alycia C –
This book pissed me off for all the right reasons. In my opinion, this should be on the required high school reading list.This story is about the lowest of humanity.It’s abuse, abandonment, isolation, fear, and not being accepted simply because you are dirt poor.Based in the 1960’s in the Carolina marshes, this book was eye opening and heart wrenching at the same time. I would read it again and again. Our world today is marginally better than the 1960’s. But we are still no where close to being right with diversity, inclusion, and, in the case of this book, equality. We could learn a lesson from this story.We are all, HUMAN.
I saw the trailer for the movie and heard there was a book. I started the book it was so good, but the movie finally came out and I could not wait as i’m a slow reader with a full-time job in a busy life. The movie was good. I coincidentally sat next to A group of book readers, who ALL strongly encouraged me to finish the book! So glad I did!Amazing how the author captures Kya’s innocence and her logical way of thinking. She was uninhibited by social norms and pressures from the world. Kya’s motives were natural, uninhibited, logical un-tainted by a need for a praise from Man. I wish we all lived and grew in this clean pure way of life, as the world would be a better place.Today I am excited as I’ve purchased my ticket to see the movie a second time, with my friends!I can’t wait for Delilah Owens to write another fiction novel. I will have to check out her nonfiction books as well.
Analyssa Anderson –
My sister recommended this book to me some time ago and I agreed to add it to my TBR list but wasn’t all that enthused to start it as I’ve been getting into the spicier novels lately, so it got tossed somewhat in the middle of my list. I finished the series I had been reading yesterday and didn’t know where to go from there but immediately thought of this book. I am SO glad I did!! This book has had me feeling so much in the last day and a half. At one point I felt so sad for Kya and then the next minute I would be so happy for her and then the next chapter I would be absolutely mad on her behalf or cursing her in my mind for wanting to see the good in someone who didn’t deserve it. I am honestly sad for this story to be over but I am happy to say that every question that I had throughout this story was answered by the end of it and I really do feel like it all came together amazingly and allowed readers to not only glimpse Kya’s life but experience every bit of it with her. I love this book. I will likely read a few other books and then come back to this again as I sometimes do with other stories that I’ve truly enjoyed. The details provided really help you paint a picture in your mind and allow you to feel like you’re there with Kya, experiencing her marsh and nature through her eyes. 10/10 do recommend!
Delta High School Library –
Kya lives in the marshlands of North Carolina with her poverty stricken family. Her father is abusive and, one by one, her siblings leave and, eventually, so does her mother. Her father stays and he seems better for a time, even kind. Then he falls back into his old ways again and ends up leaving too. Kya tries school for a day but after being bullied, she doesn’t return. She makes it completely on her own and digs mussels to sell to the local store to bring in money for food. Tate, a boy a few years older than Kya, loves to explore the marsh. They become friends and he teaches her to read. With reading, she discovers and teaches herself to be literate and all about the marshlands and its nature. She illustrates and collects samples of everything she finds in her marsh area. Tate leaves to attend college and becomes a biologist and works in the marsh. He submits Kya’s illustrations and notes to a publisher and she becomes a published author several times over. She adds comforts to her house and lives well by her own wealth. She lives simply but she gets electricity and running water and other basic comforts that she’s never had. When Tate went away to college, he realized that his life would be difficult for Kya. So, he doesn’t visit her for years. While he’s away, the local and popular Chase moves in on Kya. He tricks her into thinking he’s going to marry her, all the while dating other women. Kya eventually sees his engagement article in the local newspaper and ends it with him. Later, he attacks her, trying to rape her and he beats her up. She fights back and escapes. His body is found later and it looks like he fell from the fire tower in the marsh. Since he was a local celebrity, the police are pushed to investigate for foul play. Kya is arrested and faced with a murder trial. The whole time I’m reading the part after Chase attacks Kya, I’m hoping she killed him but I also don’t want her to be found guilty. The suspense builds to intensity and I couldn’t put the book down! Tremendously honest, heartbreaking and soul healing! 5 stars!