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Where the Crawdads Sing is the debut novel of Delia Owens. The story follows the life of Katherine Danielle Clark, nicknamed Kya, as she grows up in an area of marshland on the North Carolina coast in the late 1950s and 1960s. This beautifully written novel weaves together a life story and natural imagery that draws you into its world.
Like The Lying Game and The Light We Lost, Where the Crawdads Sing another pick from Reese Witherspoon’s book club. The novel will also soon be made into a film and it has spent many weeks atop the New York Times Best Seller list.
Review: Plot, Pros and Cons
The story begins when Kya is a child. She lives in a shack in the marsh near a small North Carolina town with her family, including her mother, older siblings, and abusive father. One day, her mother packs up and leaves the family behind. One by one, Kya’s siblings follow suit, until she’s left with her father, a man who’s prone to disappearing for several days at a time. Six-year-old Kya does what she can to care for the house, her father, and herself, until he too doesn’t come home.
The beginning of this novel is heartbreaking and at times difficult to get through. You may even find yourself wondering, Oh no, is this book just going to get more depressing? However, do not be deterred. As the novel progresses, Kya grows older and her profound story unfolds.
We follow Kya as she navigates growing up on her own. We’re with her as she figures out how to survive, learns how to read, and keep up her home. We see her struggle with making personal connections; trust doesn’t come easily after she’s been abandoned by so many. She is shunned by most of the townspeople, who refer to her as “Marsh Girl.” Though, eventually, she brings some people into her life, like Jumpin’ and Tate.
Kya grows up understanding the marsh. She feeds the birds, collects certain items, and studies its patterns. It’s where she hides from unwanted visitors and catches food. In the absence of her relatives, the marsh becomes her family.
While we journey with Kya through her coming of age tale, another story unfolds. Alternating chapters describe a murder investigation happening in the future. The body of a local man has been found in the marsh, and detectives are attempting to solve the crime.
Eventually, the timelines come together and the two stories converge. The novel carries the reader through the trial and its conclusion.
The rest of the book takes us further into the future, providing further pictures of life in the marsh.
Here we have some discussion topics for your book club. They’re not too specific, so as not to spoil any of the plot for those who may not have finished the book yet.
- Kya grew up in the 1950s and 1960s. Would her story be possible today? How would it be different?
- What do you think of the decision that Kya’s mother made?
- Why don’t you think more of Kya’s family attempted to reconnect with each other?
- What is the significance of Tate throughout Kya’s life? How would her life have been different without him?
- Regarding the way the townspeople treated Kya, Tom says, “…we labeled and rejected her because we thought she was different. But ladies and gentlemen, did we exclude Miss Clark because she was different, or was she different because we excluded her?” What do you think, is Kya the way she is because of nature or nurture?
- Did the trial unfold the way you thought it would? Do you think the jury made the right decision? Why or why not?
- In the end, does the book offer an optimistic or pessimistic view of love and family?
- Were you surprised by the ending? Why or why not?
Overall, Where the Crawdads Sing is a beautifully written novel with a captivating main character. Between the natural imagery, unique life story, and the element of mystery, this captivating book will keep you interested and provide plenty of discussion for your book club.
Have you read Where the Crawdads Sing? What did you think of it? Let me know in the comments!
Happy reading! Cheers!