Where the Crawdads Sing is a bestselling book I have been wanting to read since it gained popularity by being selected for Reese Witherspoon’s book club. I would find it featured in bookstores, but from the description, I wasn’t really sure if it was something I would enjoy or even care to read. This book, however, was one that I enjoyed. I will say the pacing is a bit slow at times, but I did find the plot compelling and the main character Kya relatable.
Here is the book’s description:
“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 immediate 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.”
My Verdict: Where the Crawdads Sing is Worth Reading
This book starts off slowly, describing how Kya is abandoned by her mother and eventually her five other siblings at a very young age (I can’t remember the exact age, but I think she was 6 years old). She lives in a shack in a marsh with her alcoholic, physically abusive father who disappears for days at a time. At age 9 or 10, Kya’s father disappears, never returning, and we have to assume he has died. While alone, Kya teaches herself how to cook grits and other basic foods, and she eventually figures out how to make enough money to buy food and gas for her father’s boat, which is her only mode of transportation. Years pass by, and eventually, she meets Tate, a boy who is a few years older than her who she remembers was her older brother Jodie’s friend. Tate starts leaving feathers for her in a tree stump, and Kya collects them, finding feathers and leaving them for him as well. More years pass, and Tate offers to teach Kya to read, giving her old textbooks from his school. At one point, in an endearing passage, he even has to explain to her how her period works and what to do. Throughout all this time, Kya also becomes friends with Jumpin’, a black man who owns the little store on the marina. Kya trades fish and mussels for gas and other essentials at Jumpin’s store, and his wife Mabel gives Kya old, discarded clothing that becomes her wardrobe.
The books switches back and forth between time periods, beginning with a prologue set in 1969, with the discovery of Chase Andrews’ body, and then chapter one is set in 1952, explaining the beginning of Kya’s life. She and Tate eventually become a couple when they are teenagers, but Tate has to leave her to go to college. Even though he promises to visit her, he realizes he isn’t ready to commit to a life of isolation with her. Kya eventually catches the eye of Chase Andrews, a high school quarterback with wayward tendencies, and Kya learns how different her two love interests have treated her. I found her exchanges with Tate as mostly sweet and innocent and felt so sorry for her reading how Chase treated her. Eventually, the chapters set in the past catch up to the “present” with the Andrews murder trial.
Overall, I’m giving this book 3.5 to 4 stars. It didn’t make it to 5 because I found some parts of the story unbelievable, but it is fiction. After all, books are supposed to take the reader to a new world and tell an unbelievable story. However, I felt the main premise of the story — that a young girl can live in near complete isolation and turn out to be a wise and intelligent scientist book writer — was almost too unreal. Maybe it is just me, but I had a lot of questions for the townspeople. Why didn’t anyone take this poor girl in? Was everyone really that prejudiced? Why was Kya considered trash? Why didn’t Kya’s four other siblings, besides Jodie, ever reach out to find her after they had grown up? I also wondered why Kya never moved away from the marsh. Even when she begins writing books and has a regular income, she remains in the same shack she’s lived in for her whole life, never once even considering leaving it. But I guess, because the townspeople are so prejudiced against her, maybe she feels that everywhere else is like that, too, and she won’t be accepted. I also wondered at what point did Kya write her books. There isn’t really a mention of her sitting down to write. Does she have a typewriter? Now that I think about it, there is no mention of her ever learning to write. Or if there was it must have been quickly mentioned. You can read all day, but learning to write letters, words, and sentences is a different story, let alone poetry. This is something the author should have elaborated on. With no plumbing, how did this poor girl even use the bathroom? Throughout the novel, Kya mentions various birds, even as a little girl, but I wondered how did she even know the different types of birds and their names without ever taking a biology class? I can assume she learns them when she’s older from the textbooks Tate brings her, but before this, she recognized feathers from birds he had brought her previously. These are questions I asked myself while reading. I also felt the ending to the book dragged on. I found myself scanning some of the courtroom testimonies just because I really didn’t care to read about the witnesses being questioned.
The ending of the book did have a little bit of a twist. I was glad that Kya found some sort of peace, but also thought the ending could have been better if it had alluded to her life after the trial instead of explaining it.
I think you will like this book if you enjoy reading from authors who provide a lot of description, and if you are a fan of reading about coming-of-age novels. Although, yes, Kya does have two love interests, I wouldn’t categorize this book as romance.
According to Barnes and Noble, a few other books you might enjoy that are similar to this book are We Begin at the End by Chris Whitaker, All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, and The Sweet Taste of Muscadines by Pamela Terry.
If you’ve read this book, let me know what you thought of it! Did you have the same questions I did while reading? As always, thanks so much for reading!