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Book Review: Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

Updated: Mar 11, 2021

Go as far as you can - way out yonder where the crawdads sing.

'Where the Crawdads Sing' is a New York Times fiction best-seller, and the debut novel of Delia Owens. Besides being an author, Owens is a dedicated zoologist. She has won several awards for nature writing and her articles have been published in many prominent journals. Being a wildlife scientist, her explicitly detailed narration of the different places in the book has given the reader a chance to completely immerse themselves in the story.

Present: According to the sources, a murder has been reported beneath the abandoned fire tower near the Barkley Clove, North Carolina. The whole town suspects a mysterious teenage girl who lives alone in the marsh. Almost no one knows her name but they do know that she comes out of that filthy place once in a while to fuel her motorboat. The body has been identified to be of one Chase Andrews, who had been seen roaming around with the marsh girl and so the suspicion grew stronger on her.

Past: Catherine Danielle Clark (Kya) was the youngest amongst the 5 children of the Clark family. For a major part of her early childhood, she witnessed her drunken father assaulting her mother.

When she turned 6, one fine day her mother left wearing leather heels and never came back. Eventually, the four siblings also left the house after being subjected to never-ending physical abuse. It was just Kya and her father now, who spent most of his evenings indulging in gambling and drinking. For a while, Kya's father stopped drinking and started to come back home every evening, which gave Kya a motive to clean around the house and cook food. He taught her bits and pieces of how to fish. Amidst all this, an amateur zoologist was budding in this child, who took up responsibilities too soon in life. Kya loved to collect insect specimens and feathers but she never learned to read or write because of the prejudices she faced in the town school. Time passed and soon Kya turned into a teenager who had figured out most of her life herself until she came across Tate, a friend of one of Kya's siblings. He was not so much of a stranger as they had spent some time playing around the marsh when Kya was just 4 or 5. Because of being isolated, Kya was oblivious to the ideas of affection, friendship, and empathy. So, she took some time to come around Tate. Tate would drop by the marsh every other day with an excuse to teach Kya how to read and write. Later he became the reason for Kya's success as she went on to write several books about her collection of specimens over the years. As Tate goes off to college, Kya met another guy named Chase Andrews, from Barkley Clove, she fell in love with him but later realized that he had already been engaged. During this time, Kya was subjected to a series of emotional turmoil as people from her past started to come back to her life. Jodie, her eldest and closest sibling visited her for the first time in years and broke the news about the whereabouts of their mother and after that, he lived near the marsh and dropped by often. As Kya learned more about the world outside of her marsh, she grew into a more emotionally self-reliant version of herself.

Owens’ non-linear narrative helps the reader to understand Kya’s changing perspectives from the years of isolation to the frequent entries and exits of various characters. This book will take you with Kya as she rows her boat every day from the marsh to the beach, and sometimes to Barkley Clove. You will be with her when she stands in the court to defend herself against the charges of murder, and in the end, you will be a part of the place 'Where the Crawdads Sing'.

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