Blending both a hauntingly beautiful coming of age and a 1960’s crime drama, Delia Owens’ 2018 novel Where the Crawdads Sing is a captivating book that will make you cry, laugh, and feel all the emotions in between. This novel follows the story of six-year-old Kya Clark and her learning to fend for herself in the coastal wetlands of North Carolina, all while coping with the pangs of loneliness of a child left behind. This story is intersected by the murder mystery of a local townie sweetheart which Kya becomes linked to because of her label as the ‘wild marsh girl’. This toggle between two perspectives is one of the ways Owens creates gripping tension in the novel that makes it so impossible to put down. Kya, abandoned by her family and forced to raise herself in the isolated area known as the marsh, is seen as an outcast in her community. In an early scene, Kya attends school for one day, but after being ostracised by her classmates she vows never to return. Despite her independence, Kya––like us all––is not immune to the longing for human connection.
In these short 368 pages, Owens manages to tackle a diverse range of issues, touching on themes of prejudice, loneliness, love, abuse, wildlife conservation, and education just to name a few. In the backdrop of this gripping plot Owens contrasts the heavy story with the beautiful natural world of the coastal American south. The author’s background as a zoologist informs her uniquely colourful descriptions of the flora and fauna of the marsh. Through her delicate and poetic writing, Owens is able to bring the marsh alive. This love and appreciation for nature are mirrored in Kya’s own connection to the marsh. Devoid of human love, this marsh becomes Kya’s new family and the spark for. This closeness to nature is arguably one of the most beautiful and unique aspects of Owens’ novel.
What makes Where the Crawdads Sing so special is that this New York Time’s best-selling work is actually Delia Owens’ debut novel! Where the Crawdads Sing is on track to become a true literary favourite, so much so you can expect to see it in cinemas soon. Featuring Normal People’s rising star Daisy Edgar-Jones, this film adaptation is set to release in summer 2022. From its beautiful writing to its captivating plot which leaves you guessing at every turn, Owens’ novel is a must-have on this winter’s TBR (to be read) list. So if you are looking for a way to unwind and keep warm on these chilly November nights, this southern sizzler will certainly do the job.
Molly Meehan – Arts & Lifestyle Writer