Chosen by Jodie
A marshland recluse becomes tied up in a 1960s murder mystery, set in North Carolina
⚑ “In the isolated marshlands of North Carolina, a young orphan named Kya lives alone, with only the local flora and fauna from which to learn about life. Her run down cottage breathes its history, haunting Kya of the violence and struggles that caused her family to abandon her. This is a childhood of the 1950s, when regulations were loose so there is little attempt by authorities to guide or supervise her.
“As Kya matures, she draws the attentions of two men, Chase Andrews and Tate Walker. One of these men turns up dead and so begins a criminal investigation and court case that Kya becomes caught up in.
“When The Crawdads Sing has a captivating plot which captures the reader and holds their attention. The murder plot line has all the hallmarks of a good crime novel with dramatic prosecutors, elaborate accusations and a few surprises to keep you guessing.
“However, it is the setting and character’s relationship to the land that is the real drawcard to this novel. As a human who knows only nature, all Kya’s references come from her surroundings: her survival instincts, her food gathering methods and her relationship building with the few humans in her life, both friend and foe. Even her dating rituals come from her observations of the sex life of fireflies.
“That the author, Delia Owens, has strong connections to the environment is apparent. In fact she worked for many years as a wildlife scientist in Africa. Her ability to develop the setting as if it was a character itself gives the book life, and provides a contemporary link to today’s environmental and ecological politics.
Sometimes she heard night-sounds she didn’t know or jumped from lightning too close, but whenever she stumbled, it was the land who caught her. Until at last, at some unclaimed moment, the heart-pain seeped away like water into sand. Still there, but deep. Kya laid her hand upon the breathing, wet earth, and the marsh became her mother.
“The timing of the book also provides a stage for Owens to reference racial and social division of the time, which she does in a historical presentation without the moralistic outrage that so often accompanies such topics.
“In a book where the protagonist spends large portions of time alone, said protagonist needs to be exceptionally well developed. And yes there was a lot put into the creation of Kya. To the townsfolk, the “Marsh Girl,” is a recalcitrant freak, who isolates herself in her remote shack; yet the author, portrays her to the reader as quite the opposite. One whom, despite her raw and brutal lifestyle, turns into not only an academic and beauty, but a strong, capable and worldly woman, almost superherioic in nature. This is a little disappointing, to be honest. Owens may have provided Kya a tutor but a tutor and the fireflies cannot be the credited for all her social aptitude and intellect. That such an ode to perfection could arise from such ramshackle wilderness and captivate not one but two local men is also far fetched.
“Yet despite this, all the freerangers forgave the author, for the plot and the landscape were both so appealing, as was the styling, which successfully circled many genres: crime, coming-of-age, romance, YA survival and nature writing.
“Just like Reece Witherspoon, we did all agree we’d recommend this book. She may have a few more followers than us though!”