Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This novel had so much hype, between its listing as a pick for Book of the Month and a monthly pick for Reese Witherspoon's book club, that I almost didn't want to read it. But I was headed to a long weekend in Beaufort, SC, with a landscape similar to that of the book, and decided to listen to it on the way there. We got about 10% in listening at 1x speed. After returning home and finishing up some podcast listening, I returned to the book at 1.75x speed and finished it in a few days.
The central story in the novel is that of Kya, a girl who lives in the isolated marshes of North Carolina in the 1950s. Due to several family situations, she is forced to largely raise herself, learning to cook, clean, and navigate a boat long before she learns to read. At some point a 1969 storyline steps in with the occasional chapter, introducing a murder mystery in the closest town to Kya.
I loved this book for its landscape, and for the survival narrative. I liked the idea of Kya developing a deep understanding of the marsh and its creatures, and being able to represent that artistically. I enjoyed the light mystery of the murder/death. I liked that she created a small found family of sorts with the people of color and a few other real marsh dwellers that had an overall positive impact on her life, probably saving her life. I found it harder to fully give myself over to the idea of Kya learning to read and then going on to master high levels of learning without any other expert guiding her understanding. It tastes a little of the kind of narrative where a person is redeemed by their extra goodness rather than just letting them be average or uneducated but still valuable because they are human, but this is so entrenched in American lit I guess I shouldn't be surprised.
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