Book Review: ‘Where the Crawdads Sing’ a beautiful coming-of-age story about family, independence, sacrifice

“Where the Crawdads Sing” a love letter to mother nature, wildlife

Author Delia Owens even has some experience with criminal accusations...


Author Delia Owens even has some experience with criminal accusations…

MIA PUZZO, Evergreen columnist

One thing about me is I crave a good book doused in mystery. It is true, I was once fooled by the pink skies and the serene water that paint the front cover of “Where the Crawdads Sing” by Delia Owens. However, I can now say without a doubt that this book will do anything but make you want to fall asleep.

“Where the Crawdads Sing” is a 2018 novel written by retired wildlife biologist Owens. The book focuses on the life of an abandoned young girl named Kya, who lives on her own after being left by her mother and escaping abuse from her absent father. 

As an outcast in society, she learns to fend for herself in the marshes of North Carolina during the 1950s and 60s. The mysterious Kya becomes known in town as “the marsh girl,” which eventually becomes her power instead of a perceived weakness. 

After years of having little to no interaction with kids her age, teenage Kya begins a friendship and romance with a local boy name Tate. Kya learns how to read from Tate, which she then uses to her advantage to write books about the natural world around her. 

Kya is eventually left by Tate when he leaves her for college, and she seeks out companionship with popular teen Chase Andrews. 

The secret love affair between Chase and Kya ends under bad circumstances, which due to town prejudices, makes Kya the number one suspect in a murder trial when Chase’s body is found at the local fire tower. 

The contrast between the peace Kya feels with nature and the unsettling human interactions she has is a prevalent message carried on throughout the novel. No matter who leaves her, she always has the marsh.

I cannot help but mention that Owens’ elaborate descriptions of Kya’s connection to the natural world can only evoke the mother nature that lives inside all of us. The details of the peaceful marsh will transport you to another place and time.

Like Kya, Owens also has a deep connection with nature and the animal world; and while this is Owens’ first fictional novel, she has been writing nonfiction books for decades as an experienced biologist. 

One of her best-selling collaborative books, “The Eye of the Elephant,” accounts for her battles against poachers in Zambia’s North Luangwa National Park. “Where the Crawdads Sing” has continued to reach the top of bestseller charts despite Owens’ controversial past of being tied to a murder of an animal poacher from Zambia

It is safe to say that this is not your stereotypical murder mystery tale, especially when the author is wanted for questioning in a real murder case.  

I found this extremely interesting considering there is a striking resemblance to the fictional story Owens’ created. Coincidence? Let us hope so.

Despite what may or may not be true about Owens’ past, “Where the Crawdads Sing” is a unique coming-of-age story that refuses to categorize into one singular genre. If I was to recommend a book that could touch everyone on some level, this would be the one.

This story is told on a dual timeline, and even if you are not a huge fan of back-and-forth timelines like myself, I guarantee you will want to continue reading. The two stories come together in a natural way that makes you understand the characters on a deeper level.

I ultimately decided to give this novel a read after contemplating whether I should for several months. However, after seeing a trailer for its motion picture, I decided that I could not watch the movie before picking up the book. 

While a bit slow in the beginning, the novel is rich in character description and does not leave the book feeling underdeveloped. Kya’s character is independent and brave, and you will find yourself immediately rooting for her.

The character Jumpin’, one of the only adult figures in Kya’s life, plays an important role in defining what this book is about. The two characters look past the prejudices society has put on each of them and accept each other as their chosen family. 

Without giving anything away, the ending leaves one with a feeling of uneasiness and makes the reader question everything they have just read. 

“Where the Crawdads Sing” is an instant classic that I hope will be taught in future English classes. There are many life lessons and messages woven into this book that will pull at your heartstrings. 

This book is more than a book about a life of a girl who lives on her own. It is a story about grief, betrayal and, more than anything else, sacrifice.