Book review: Where the Crawdads Sing

Where the Crawdads Sing

Delia Owens

Little Brown

Review: Karen Watkins

This coming-of-age murder mystery topped the fiction best-seller lists for many weeks.

The movie based on the book is now on circuit at NuMetro theatres.

The story follows two timelines that gradually intertwine. The back story begins in 1965 in fictional Barkley Cove in North Carolina with the town’s golden boy being found dead.

The other timeline is set in the past and tells of how 10-year-old Kya Clark was basically abandoned by her parents and lived alone and isolated.

Kya cannot read or write, has no money, food or electricity but is smart and survives on her wits with only the gulls as friends.

Growing older she is lonely and yearns to be touched and loved. Two young men from town, Chase and Tate, become intrigued by Kya’s wild beauty as she gradually opens herself to a new life… until the unthinkable happens.

Other characters are Jumpin and his wife Mabel who are kind to Kya while allowing her to maintain her pride and independence, and a 74-year-old lawyer who comes out of retirement to defend Kya against a town that already assumes she is guilty.

However, it’s the marsh that is almost the main character as it is Kya’s life, livelihood and the essence of who she becomes through her self-learned expertise of its plants, insects, birds and her art.

A crawdad is a fresh water crayfish. It cannot sing. The heroine’s mother often encouraged her to explore the marsh: “Go as far as you can – way out yonder where the crawdads sing.” Owens was inspired to use the phrase because her own mother had used it when she was a child.

The story starts slowly but picks up a third of the way. The plot is rich and vivid, the writing is heartbreaking and yet inspiring and beautiful but is far-fetched and predictable, leaving me dissatisfied.