I hope you’re all well and enjoying August. I absolutely love the summer. I’ve no idea what it is, maybe the longer summer days, but it always feels like the best time in the year. I also feel much more productive and I tend to get a lot more reading done over the summer. This may have something to do with not being at school! (I’m in complete ignorance of this until the night before we go back so moving swiftly on…)
I wanted to share with you today another book I read from my sun lounger but one I absolutely couldn’t not write about. It’s been a while since I had the urge to blog as soon as I’ve put a book down. That isn’t to say that I’ve not enjoyed books I’ve read, it’s just the reading and the writing really have to marry up and sometimes that just doesn’t happen. Regardless, this time it has and it’s all down to the AMAZING book, Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. So far this is my favourite book of 2021. It’s a bold statement but I enjoyed it sooo much. I was a little late to the party with this one but I’m so glad I picked it up one day in my local book store. Let’s get on with the review! I hope you enjoy it!
What’s it all about?
Told in two parts, The Marsh and The Swamp, this novel follows the story of Catherine Danielle Clark, nicknamed Kya. At six years old (in 1952) she sees her mother abandon her and her family. Hopelessly, she waits for her mother to return but as time passes she stubbornly doesn’t. Not only that, she also sees her older siblings, Missy, Murph, Mandy and Jodie all leave home too because of their father’s drinking and physical abuse.
“If anyone would understand loneliness, the moon would.”
Being the only child left at home, her father gives up drinking and instead turns his attention to his daughter. He teaches her how to fish and gives her a collection of shells and feathers. Whilst she cannot read or write, she can paint and she enjoys painting the landscapes, birds and coastlines immensely.
“She knew the years of isolation had altered her behavior until she was different from others, but it wasn’t her fault she’d been alone. Most of what she knew, she’d learned from the wild. Nature had nurtured, tutored, and protected her when no one else would.”
One day she finds a letter in their mailbox which is from her mother. She leaves it on the table for her father to find but when he reads it he is infuriated and burns it. Whilst the fire is going he also burns most of her clothes and canvases too. Her father spirals back to alcohol and also takes long trips out for gambling. One evening, he fails to return home at all leaving her completely alone and isolated on the marsh. Kya has to learn self resilience quickly in order to survive. She learns gardening and trading in fresh mussels and smoked fish for money for gas from Jumpin’. Jumpin’ runs a gasoline station for boats and is one of the good guys along with his wife, Mabel. They become good friends with Kya, with Mabel helping to collect clothing donations for her.
Whilst growing up alone, Kya faced many prejudices from the people of Barkley Cove. They called her ‘The Marsh Girl’. She was laughed at by schoolchildren, called nasty and filthy by the pastor’s wife. The one person who does become friendly with her is Tate Walker. As an old friend of Jodie, he is arguably one of the few nicest people to her. When she gets lost one day, it is Tate who leads her home in his boat.
Time progresses and he starts to leave her feathers from rare birds because he knows she will like them and teacher her how to read and write. The intimacy between the two increases and they have a relationship until Tate leaves for college. He promises to return, yet realises Kya cannot possibly live in this more civilised world because of her wildness and independence. He leaves without saying goodbye.
Part Two begins with Kya in 1965 aged 19. Chase Andrews (their star quarterback and playboy) invited her to a picnic where he tries to have sex with her. He later apologises and the two embark on a relationship together. He takes her to the abandoned fire tower and she gives him a gift of a shell necklace. She doesn’t trust him entirely, she wants to, but she has doubts. However, she believes that he will marry her so the two consummate their relationship. Unfortunately, whilst shopping for groceries she stumbles across a newspaper where she sees that he is already engaged to another woman. She ends the relationship, leaving her a tarnished woman.
“Female fireflies draw in strange males with dishonest signals and eat them; mantis females devour their own mates. Female insects, Kya thought, know how to deal with their lovers.”
Meanwhile, Tate returns from college having since graduated and apologises relentless for leaving her. He confesses his love for her but Kya, still hurting from his actions and her previous revelation rejects him. What she does do, however, is allowed him inside her shack and he is impressed by her collected, now much expanded, of seashells.
He persuades her to publish a reference book on seashells. At the age of 22 she achieves this and publishes her own book on seashells and then in seabirds. Following the success of this and the royalties she hires someone to install running water, a water heater, tub, sink, flushing toilets and kitchen cabinets. she also orders soft furnishings to make her place more homely.
Jodie also returns expressing regret that he too left her. He also tells her that their mother suffered from mental illness and died two years ago from leukaemia. Kya decides to forgive her mother for leaving but can’t understand why she didn’t once return. Before leaving for Georgia, he also tries to convince her to give Tate a second chance.
“Go as far as you can—way out yonder where the crawdads sing.”
Chase also makes an appearance but ends up as an argument where Kya is attacked. He beats her and attempts to rape her. Kya manages to defend herself and manages to escape. Two men witness the attack too… Kya knows that reporting will be futile because everyone will naturally blame her. She decides to leave it.
Kya has the opportunity to meet her publisher in Greenville which she gracefully accepts. Whilst she’s away, Chase is found dead beneath the fire tower. The sheriff, Ed Jackson, believes it to be a murder on the basis of having no tracks or fingerprints. To make matters more complicated, the statements he receives are all conflicting too. One thing he does learn is that the shell necklace he was wearing the night before was no longer on his body. Evidence does seem to pin Kya there but is it to be believed?
There’s a trial. There’s a verdict. Lives continue to be lived. By the end of the novel, Kya is with Tate in a loving relationship knowing that they were the ones for each other. Also, Kya sadly passes away aged 64 in her boat leaving behind a wealth of secrets and stories.
“Some parts of us will always be what we were, what we had to be to survive…”
I loved this book so so much. I was totally taken in with the story right from the beginning. I love Kya and felt for her in so many way. She was a really well written and developed character and I found myself feeling a wealth of emotions about her. This is a book I’ll be giving to friends and family as well. In fact, as soon as I finished it my mum read it and was the same as me – she couldn’t put it down. This book is contemporary and so well written. It absolutely deserves the accolades it has. It’s a stunning read.