There’s honestly nothing better than sinking your teeth into a fantastic book over summer break. I picked up “Where the Crawdads Sing” at their airport before a family camping trip on a whim and it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
Published in 2018 by Delia Owens, the novel, set in the late ’50s and early ’60s, follows the life of a girl named Kya. Left to fend for herself by her family, she lives completely alone in the marsh of North Carolina, surviving off mussels, fishing, and her love of nature. Around Barkley Cove, the small town she lives by, she’s known as the “Marsh Girl,” and is generally shunned by the community. Her isolation continues until her teens and early twenties when two young men stumble upon her shack hidden in the marsh. When one of these men is murdered, Kya is suspected immediately. As quoted by the New York Times Book Review, “Where the Crawdads Sing” is a “murder mystery, coming-of-age narrative, and a celebration of nature” all at once.
Kya is a fascinating character. After being abandoned by her family members one by one, her complete isolation leaves nothing but nature alone to raise her. As a result, she is highly intelligent to the environment surrounding her, despite her inability to read and having never gone to school. But, as all humans do, she craves love, touch and companionship, leading her to enter into two relationships with the boys from the Barkley Cove. She learns trust, heartbreak and love from these encounters, but it is apparent the neglect she faced throughout her life will forever mark her as “different.”
Delia Owens, a wildlife scientist by profession, wrote “Where the Crawdads Sing” as a reflection of her time spent in Africa, where she was completely isolated for months on end while doing research. Though “Where the Crawdads Sing” is neither about Africa or wildlife scientists, Owens wanted to write about what would happen to a woman left utterly alone for nearly her whole life.
The way she crafts the novel is fantastic, jumping back and forth between the murder investigation in 1969 and Kya’s adolescence in the ’50s. It all comes together in a satisfying, heartwrenching and completely unexpected way. I won’t say any more on that, but just know that your pulse will be racing and your jaw will be on the floor.
“Where the Crawdads Sing” is by far the best book I’ve read in a long time. It has a little bit of something for everybody and is beautifully written. If you’re looking for your next summer read before fall officially sets in, look no further.