Synopsis from Amazon:
For years, rumors of the ‘Marsh Girl’ have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl. But Kya is not what they say. Sensitive and intelligent, she has survived for years alone in the marsh that she calls home, finding friends in the gulls and lessons in the sand. Then the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. When two young men from town become intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new life – until the unthinkable happens.
Where the Crawdads Sing is the story of how Kya, the youngest child of five, grew up, living in a rundown shack in the marshlands in North Carolina. At the age of seven, her mother left home, then her older brothers and sisters also left, leaving her alone with her father, a violent drunkard. He then also abandoned her. It is also a murder mystery and these two strands interweave throughout the book. I wrote about the opening of this book in this Book Beginnings and The Friday 56 post.
Left alone, Kya survived with help from Jumpin’, the general store owner, who lived in Colored Town and his wife, Mabel, and also from Tate, an older boy who taught her to read and write – she only went to school for one day and after that she managed to hide from the school truant officer. Thinking about it after reading the book I did find the story of Kya’s early years rather unbelievable – the fact that such a young child managed to survive independently and that no one paid more attention to the disappearance of her mother and father bothered me. But, as I was reading it seemed plausible and it certainly did not lessen my enjoyment of the book.
I loved the setting, in an area completely unknown to me, beautifully described by Delia Owens. The details of the marshlands, in the coastal region of North Carolina, its wildlife, flora and fauna brought the setting to life for me. I liked the way that Kya gradually began to trust a few people, letting them into her life – she couldn’t have survived physically or emotionally otherwise. Her interest in her surroundings, encouraged by Tate, led to amazing things for her. So much so that she became an expert on the natural world around her.
But, when Chase Andrews, a handsome sporting hero adored by the other teenage girls, pursues her, she believes him when he promises to marry her, only to discover from the local newspaper that he was engaged to marry someone else. Later when Chase is found dead she is suspected of his murder. The latter part of the book became a courtroom drama that didn’t quite live up to the earlier part of the book for me. And before the end It became increasingly clear to me just who had killed Chase.
This is a story of loneliness and of the effects of rejection – a story of survival and the power of love combined with a murder mystery, and full of fascinating characters that had me racing through its pages. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
And for those like me who didn’t know the meaning of the saying, ‘where the crawdads sing’ this is how Tate explained it to Kya when she asked him:
‘What d’ya mean, where the crawdads sing? Ma used to say that.’ Kya remembered Ma always encouraging her to explore the marsh: ‘Go as far as you can – way out yonder where the crawdads sing.’
‘Just means far in the bush where critters are wild, still behaving like critters.’ (page 111)
- Publisher: Corsair, 2019
- Language: English
- Paperback: 370 pages
- Source: a library book
- My rating: 4*