I was surprised at how much I enjoyed Where the Crawdads Sing.
It follows Kya, a girl who’s been left to her own devices in a rudimentary house on the swamp. Her entire family left, one by one, when she was very young, leaving her to learn on her own how to cook, how to make money, how to survive. With the help of a store owner and his kind wife, Kya manages to survive.
Her socialization as she grows is very limited, though. She only attended one day of school. Her only contact is with the store owner and one or two other people. Her communication instead is through and with nature. She’s more at peace with birds of her swampland than she is with people.
Actually, Kya has more social skills than seems believable, for someone left completely alone from a very young age. And once she learns to read, she picks up a lot more academically than seems believable, for someone who never received any sort of education previously. And to even be able to venture into the big city on her own later in life would probably be more of an event than it’s made out to be in the book.
One part of me (admittedly a silly part) kept expecting Jodie Foster of Nell to spring from the bushes, shouting, “Chickabaaaaaaay.” And that depiction would likely be a little closer to the reality of someone in her situation.
Setting aside disbelief, though, I loved living in the swamp with Kya.
I loved her visits with the shop owner who helped her. Looking at nature through Kya’s eyes gives me a new appreciation for it.
There’s a murder subplot here, but the murder’s not the star of the show. Kya is. For me, the trial is tiresome. I was ready to get back to Kya’s everyday life. It’s easy to see the usefulness of this plot point, though, giving yet another element that’s pushing back against Kya and the space she occupies, both physically and emotionally.
Perhaps it’s the title Where the Crawdads Sing that initially made me hesitate to pick up this book. For some reason, I imagined it being a touchy-feely Hallmark movie of a book. I was wrong.
Owens’ wonderful story reminds me of the magical bond between person and place, between mud and blood and sea and sky.
Where the Crawdads Sing
Published August 2018
G.P. Putnam’s Sons