Minnesota Seniors Online



WHERE THE
CRAWDADS SING

BY DELIA OWENS
REVIEWED BY
LINDA WICKLUND

This is another debut novel by an author who is also a wildlife scientist which adds many interesting facts about the  desolate marshlands in which this story unfolds. The marsh and it's shore land along the North Carolina coast was known by early explorers as the "Graveyard of the Atlantic” because of riptides, furious winds and rugged shoreline.

Where the Crawdads Sing is a beautifully written story of a young child who is abandoned and left to survive with only memories of things her Ma and brother Jodie taught her by age 6 and by observing the wonders of nature.

The story begins in 1969 when two young boys out riding their bikes discover the dead body of Chase Andrews,  a local man lying in the swamp. From here the rest of the book tells us the events that lead to his death. Now it's 1952 and we learn the story of six year old Kya and her struggles to survive. It’s a steamy August day when her Ma leaves the shack which is their home.  She watches her Ma walk down the rutted lane.  Kya waits for her usual wave at the end of the lane, which never comes… It didn't take long for Kya's oldest brother and two older sisters to leave too.  You see, they’ve been living in a terrible, abusive household their whole lives. "They had endured Pa’s red-faced drunken rages" for too long. Then the final straw, her closest brother Jodie tells Kya he can’t stay either.  “Over the next few days, Kya learned from the mistakes of others and more from the minnows how to live with her abusive Pa.  Just keep out of the way, don’t let him see you, dart from sunspots to shadows.”

The book then goes back and forth to 1969 and the investigation into the death of Chase Andrews, a former high school football star and ladies man. His body was found at the base of an old fire tower which on face value looks like an accident.  But, there are no footprints, tire tracks, or evidence except for a dead body. How and why was Chase there? One morning when Pa has gone to talk to the army about his belief that more disability is due him, Kya wonders to the lagoon and sees Pa's boat drifting on the line. "But, being only seven and a girl, she’d never taken the boat out by herself”. This opens up a whole new world for Kya. As she steers through the waters of the marsh there's a beaver lodge, turtles sliding from logs, and a whitetail doe with last springs fawn lapping water. And most amazing, she comes across a boy fishing in a battered rig. In spite of her reluctance to talk to this stranger, even though he smiled in a warm and open way, she had no choice. She was lost, low on gas, and a storm was coming. The young 12 year old boy, Tate Walker, turns out to be one of the only true friends Kya would ever have. Kya's passion as she grows older is collecting feathers, shells, abandoned bird nests and many other miracles of nature.  Also, to Kya's delight her Pa takes her fishing that spring and teaches her to fish.  When she reels in a big fish, her Pa almost smiles and for the first time in her young life calls her “hon”.

This lonely, sensitive and intelligent girl grows into a beautiful young woman who the townspeople call the Marsh Girl.  Her only friend, Tate, teaches her to read which is the greatest gift he could have given her.  His friendship and her friends the gulls shape her solitary life.

There is so much more to this wonderful story, but I think I'll let you discover the many other interesting and mysterious aspects of this book on your own. I hope it will keep you entertained and anxious to continue reading, as it did me.

 Happy reading!!