WARNING: COMING SPOILERS:
Delia Owens shocks the book world with 368 pages of raw feelings and pure trauma.
In his independent novel, “Where the Crawdads Sing,” Owens writes a murder mystery, two completely opposite love stories, and a story shrouded in abandonment and loneliness.
The plot follows Kya Clark, also known as “Marsh Girl”, through the adventure of climbing in the wilderness since the age of seven. The story, set in North Carolina in 1952, is about Kya’s struggles as everyone who matters to her leaves her. The author periodically skips years to mark monumental moments of love, reunification, pain and loss in the world of Kya.
The best part of the book – there is a murder mystery to be solved but Kya, sadly, is the prime suspect.
Chase Andrews is beloved in the town of Barkley Cove, so when his corpse is found at the bottom of the marshes in the year 1969, his fingers are immediately pointed at the woman who knows the area best.
Almost every other chapter is a change of settings, although all chapters consistently remain in the third person perspective. Some scenes follow the deputies as they attempt to uncover the truth behind Chase’s death, while others follow the events in Kya’s life as she becomes an intelligent and independent woman.
Kya, at a young age, slowly loses her mother and older siblings, one by one, until only her older brother Jodie remains. He abandons her too, leaving her all alone with Pa, their drunk and abusive father.
Soon after Kya’s father leaves, she slowly finds ways to earn money and survive on her own in the swamp. People go out every now and then, trying to get her to go to school, but Kya has decided to stay in the house which holds her family’s fondest memories.
During her adventure, Kya befriends a black couple, known as Jumpin ‘and Mabel, who help her by giving her clothes and people to talk to.
What is very powerful about this connection in the book is that during those years people of color were going through years of segregation, so the idea Owens portrayed here is for the white community, Kya is considered like a “white garbage can” and therefore does not belong to them. As a result, she is “associated” with the black community in their minds, which means that she is inferior to them, regardless of her race.
And yet, Owens does a magnificent job of showing the compassion of Mabel and Jumpin ‘welcoming her, as if she were their family. Kya’s entire bond with this couple is a touching and powerful message that the author exceptionally brings out throughout the book, especially during this time. Even Kya at one point referred to Jumpin as the closest she had to a real father, which certainly caused some readers to search for a box of tissues. In that sense, Kya was better off with Jumpin ‘and Mabel by her side instead.
As Kya grows up, she befriends Tate Walker, who is about four years older than her. Tate comes to visit Kya and teaches him to read and write. Soon a connection develops between them and they fall in love. Despite their mutual attraction, there is an age gap, not a legal one.
When discussions about sex arise between Kya and Tate, she was 15 at the time and Tate was 19. All the while, readers probably wanted them to fall in love and be together, but as soon as Owens was arriving at this scene, it was like slamming on the brakes and receiving a whiplash.
Tate shouldn’t have made a move on a girl who not only doesn’t know better, but especially one so young, with so little experience with any sort of social issue outside of her isolated swamp.
Although it’s monumental to note that Tate stopped him even when he and Kya both wanted to because he knew he couldn’t morally compromise her when she was such a young girl. It’s a low bar, but still a line that his next sweetheart, Chase Andrews hasn’t quite met.
After Tate left for college and didn’t come back to say goodbye to Kya, she was completely broken. She was already abandoned by everyone she knew and loved and Tate knew, but left her behind anyway. She was walking around like a zombie, barely visiting Jumpin ‘and Mabel and having little interaction with anyone other than her plants and animals in the swamp.
Until the handsome player, Chase Andrews, sends her interest when she turns 19. He takes a very aggressive interest in her, immediately wanting to have sex with her on their first date. When he realizes that Kya is going to run away from him before he has a chance, Chase promises him to take it easy. Then their romance begins, and yet it’s more of a sexual attraction conveyed between the two, not as pure and genuine as it was with Kya and Tate.
That is until Chase becomes engaged to another girl and breaks Kya’s heart, around the same time Tate comes home from college and begs her forgiveness.
A lot for a 19 year old Kya to take at the same time, but the level of maturity on how she handles each of these conflicts is phenomenal. You can really see how quickly all of the people who leave her alone have allowed her to grow up to be the strong, independent woman that she is now.
One of the best little twists Owens added to this novel was the publication of Kya’s work in the Swamp. Ever since Tate started bringing his biology or science books that he had to school, she has researched the swamp for a number of different organisms and species, before sorting them into a collection. When Tate returns and sees the details and expansion of the collection, he helps Kya set up with an editor to help her publish her own biology books.
Soon Kya is making real money and slowly improving her lifestyle, an action I’m proud to say she did on her own. The success that Kya has achieved without the help of Chase Andrew’s money, Tate Walker’s love, or encouragement from her family shows just how brave Kya is to reach this level of accomplishment.
This is where the tears will start to flow for the rest of the book. Kya reunites with her brother Jodie, learns the story of what happened to her mother, shows Jumpin ‘and Mabel her recently published book and slowly begins to find her way back in life.
Suddenly, there comes a conflict for Kya. Chase returns for Kya, wanting her to be his own again, even though he’s married, and tries to rape her. Luckily, Kya escapes, but not unscathed, and she is brought back to the time her father beat her. That’s when Kya vows to never let Chase, or any other man, put another hand on her like her father had.
Hence the blame for the murder conviction. Chase finds himself in a situation where his death could have been murder or an accident.
When the sheriff has enough evidence against Kya, he takes her into custody. The book guides readers through the trial as Kya lives two months in a prison cell and has to sit with people who have always hated her, waiting for the jury to convict her of murdering a man who ‘she had once loved.
And yet, they do not condemn it. Kya is released to her swamp house where Tate finally finds her way back into her heart, leaving them to rekindle their love and grow old together.
Just when you think the book will have a happy ending, Owens surprises readers by showing the aftermath of Kya’s death. Tate reads the poems she wrote under a pseudonym and discovers the poem “The Firefly”.
Spoiler alert, Kya was murder from the start and she basically admits it in this last poem, which Tate burns after reading it.
Owens’ process through the jail cell and court scenes is a real biting feeling. All the while, I was convinced that Kya hadn’t done it and that it was someone else who hated Chase, or that it was an accident. When the jury didn’t convict her, I applauded because I thought it was an innocent woman who had freed herself.
However, the point the author makes in this book is that even though Kya has been one of the victims throughout history with all the relationships she has had, she has never been truly innocent. . Owens wanted to show the public that even someone so little associated with the corrupt nature of society was still subtly and imperceptibly affected by the polluted community in which they lived. No matter how far away she got from them, Kya was still part of Barkley Cove.
It was certainly not a twist that I was able to catch. Owens does a terrific job of keeping Kya’s thoughts to her in the third person and allowing readers to form their own opinions about her morals and character.
“Where the Crawdads Sing” is a beautifully written novel that shows readers a heartfelt picture of life that was not based solely on the slow transition from childhood to adulthood, but which portrays Kya’s rapid maturity. , as well as her process of maturing sooner than she wanted or anticipated.
The novel was published on August 14, 2018, but is currently being adapted for theaters by Sony Pictures and should go out in theaters June 24, 2022. Reese Witherspoon, who gave up this book as his Choice of September for her platform “Reese’s Book Club” in 2018, is now the producer of this upcoming film under her production company, “Hello Sunshine”. “The film will be directed by Olivia Newman… and will star Daisy Edgar-Jones, Taylor John Smith, Harris Dickinson, Michael Hyatt, Sterling Macer Jr. and David Strathairn,” according to The Envelope.
After finishing this tantalizing page turner, the impatient wait for the film’s release next summer is going to be terribly long.
Jaedyn Young can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @ jaedyn_young3.