Friday, July 17, 2020

Review: Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

It seems like everyone in the world has already read this one so I am incredibly late to the party. However, every party needs a pooper; that's why they invited me. Yes, unlike the rest of the world, I did not love this. I can almost see why people reacted the way they did but I was generally unmoved.

In 1952 on the coast of North Carolina, Kya is just six when her mother walks away from their family's rough cabin in the marsh, leaving behind Kya, her older brother Jodie, and their alcoholic, abusive father. Several older siblings are already long gone. That same year, Jodie leaves. And finally, when Kya is ten, her father disappears too, leaving this child to survive in the marsh alone. Kya becomes known as The Marsh Girl in town, laughed at, neglected, and avoided by almost everyone. She manages to figure out how to survive with a little help from Jumpin' and Mabel where she goes to buy her meager supplies and gas. They collect clothing and food for her from the colored church while the white part of town ignores her and scorns her. Kya watches the nature surrounding her, observant and quiet, learning the marsh and its ecosystem like the back of her hand. As she grows, she also watches the people around her, becoming friends with a golden haired boy named Tate, a friend of her older brother's, who will teach her to read and encourage her in her collecting.  She also observes the small group of privileged young people around her age, led by the town's best quarterback ever, Chase Andrews. It is Chase who, in the second timeline of the story will be found dead at the base of an abandoned fire tower, setting off a murder investigation aimed straight at the beautiful, odd Marsh Girl, Kya.

The story ranges from the 50s to the 70s and is a murder mystery, a romance, and a naturalist's diary all rolled into one. The latter is the most successful part of the novel, with Owens' lovely descriptions of the natural world shining through. Unfortunately the murder mystery and the romance were significantly less well written, filled with cliches and stilted writing. There were quite a few completely unrealistic plot points, including Kya's unlikely education and phenomenal success later in life, the uncharacteristic and out of the blue event that contributes to a motive for charging Kya with Chase's murder, and in fact the complicated case for how this simple, reclusive woman who had only left her home once in her life would have plotted and committed it (scroll over the following spoiler to read it) (that this hypothesis basically turns out to be true is even less believable). The characterizations in the novel were thin and underdeveloped and some, like those of the sheriff and his deputy were complete caricatures. Kya started off as a believable character but when Owens tried to add more depth and nuance to her backstory, sharing Kya's parents' more genteel backgrounds and history, she and her situation became less believable. Dialogue between characters was eye-rolling and the fact that dialect was used sometimes and not others, and not character dependent, was incredibly distracting. The beginning of the novel, as Kya is abandoned again and again, facing prejudice and disdain, and has to find a way to scratch out a meager living, is quite slow making the second part of the novel feel like it is in a huge rush to get to the end. I know I am in the minority, but I just couldn't overcome the problems with the novel to really appreciate this the way so many others clearly do.


  1. Thanks for sharing your honest opinion, sorry you didn’t enjoy it more.

  2. My mother also disliked it and convinced me not to read it. Thanks to your take as well, I am confidently putting this on my Never list.


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