Where the Crawdads Sing was a Reese Witherspoon top pick for her book club, Hello Sunshine, back in September 2018 and is still, at the time of writing this review, at the top of the New York Times Hardcover Fiction Best Sellers List so I almost have to question why it took me so long to pick up a copy.
Maybe my unwillingness to pick up Where the Crawdads Sing comes from the fact that so often I read something that has been highly recommended; a book that has received so much publicity, that I then feel disappointed.
On this occasion, however, I have to admit that my reticence and stubbornness nearly led to me not reading what has to be one of the best novels released in 2018.
This is a story starting back in the 1960s, in Barkley Cove on the North Carolina Coast, when racial segregation was still rife. This is not a tale about racial differences, however, but about a young girl who from a very early age was left out on the marshes to fend for herself.
Kya Clark was once part of a large, loving family with brothers and sisters and a mother who spent her days cooking, drawing and painting the toenails of her daughters. Unfortunately, their father was a drunk who eventually chased everyone away – everyone accepts Kya. For a while, things didn’t seem too bad, she slowly learned how to cook his meals and remembered to stay out of his way when he came home after a drinking bender, avoiding his wrath. Life ticked by. Then one day, he too left.
With no money, no education and no friends, Kya learned how to survive. She made a small amount by trading goods with Jumpin, a local man with an extremely kind heart. Very few other people in town would ever consider talking to the ‘Marsh Girl’, opting instead to watch from afar the strange girl who trusted no-one, who instead would spend her days feeding the gulls.
Her only other friend, is Tate, a local boy who desperately wants to reach out to Kya. Slowly, gaining her trust, he teaches her how to read and write. Over time, a relationship begins to flourish and she begins to feel like she is no longer alone in the world. That is until Tate heads off to college and appears to forget all about the shy, sensitive girl who hides out in the marshes.
Devastated by Tate’s sudden departure and lack of contact Kya withdraws once again. Then things get even worse.
One morning, while two kids are playing around at the edge of the marshes they find the body of Chase Andrew, a popular individual with everything to live for. To begin with, the police can’t quite work out whether it is an accident or not but soon the townspeople automatically turn towards Kya believing that the freak who lives alone in the marshes must have murdered him.
An arrest and trial follow where every little detail of Kya’s life is pulled apart in front of a crowd that has never accepted her. Barkley Cove is after blood, and regardless of whether she committed the crime or not, it seems that many are ready to condemn a young woman because she is different.
Why I think others should read Where the Crawdads Sing
Delia Owens’s story is so powerful that you can physically sense the loneliness and utter despair felt by Kya. It’s a narrative that makes you think about how you treat others. Have you ever caused anyone pain with the way you have spoken to them or the way you have shunned them because you are concerned about how others may, in turn, perceive you?
Where the Crawdads Sing highlights how society can be cruel sometimes and how we are all too quick to judge. It is an emotive story that has you championing Kya regardless of whether she is guilty or not.
Filled with suspense and intrigue, this is a murder mystery novel wrapped up in romance. It is a story that delves into how resilient people can be when faced with constant judgment and prejudice from those around them.
It is a haunting, heartbreaking novel that you will not be able to forget in a hurry.
My biggest regret is that it took me so long to read. I am always nervous about picking up a book surrounded by so much hype as I often feel let down by it. Where the Crawdads Sing, however, is no such book. Beautifully written with a unique plot, it is a compelling, original book that will keep you up until the early hours of the morning: you simply won’t be able to put it down once you have started.
Where the Crawdads Sing was first published in August 2018 by Penguin Random House but has already been snapped up by Reese Witherspoon who is currently looking to produce a TV adaption of the story for FOX 2000. My suggestion would be to read it before you see it as I have a funny feeling that, while the film may be good, the book will most definitely be better.
What other debut novels have you been impressed by? I would love to discover some new authors, so please let me know which recent books have wowed you.
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