Updated: Nov 18, 2020
Where the Crawdads Sing, a breakthrough novel by Delia Owens, has found its home atop the New York Times Fiction Bestseller list for the past 103 weeks — and has no intention of leaving this coveted spot anytime soon. Sales have skyrocketed since the novel’s original release in 2018, a very rare occurrence for book sales — trends typically show sales peaking right after the initial release. Being chosen for Reese Witherspoon’s monthly book club in September 2018 was a huge help to the book’s continuous popularity.
Owens, a retired wildlife biologist, used her own experiences living in the wilderness, isolated from society, to inspire the life of Kya Clark, the novel’s protagonist. Owens’ background as a wildlife biologist helps her paint a beautifully accurate image of the marshes and wildlife of the North Carolina coast, where the novel takes place.
In the marshes of North Carolina during the 1960s, we follow Kya, a young girl whose family abandons her to live in the marsh, as she navigates her way through her childhood into a twisted adulthood. The raw emotions of Kya — and her genuine concern for the wildlife around her — help her to quickly find a way into the readers’ hearts. Growing up on the marsh away from civilization, Kya quickly becomes the town’s outcast, nicknamed “the Marsh Girl” by locals. With no family, no friends and no money, Kya has to quickly learn to support herself. She makes a great friend out of Jumpin’, the owner of a gas and bait shop on the marsh, who helps keep Kya clothed and fed throughout the novel. This story occurs over the course of several years, with chapters alternating between flashbacks to Kya’s younger self and the events that take place after the murder of Chase Andrews, a well-off member of the community. Being ostracized from society makes Kya the main suspect for Andrews’ murder when he’s suddenly found dead in the marsh. Throughout the telling of the events leading up to the murder trial, it becomes evident that the marsh holds more secrets than anyone ever expected.
Reading is one of my most time-consuming hobbies, so when I saw how well Where the Crawdads Sing was doing on the bestseller list, I decided to give it a go. This novel creates a story that you never want to end. The characters are so real at times, it feels like you have known them your whole life, and you too are part of the marsh.
Kya is the definition of a strong woman, learning to completely take care of herself from a young age — all while being shunned from her coastal community. The novel follows a path full of twists and turns throughout the telling of Kya’s story, and you will be both horrified and delighted by the unraveling of her truth. Despite suffering heartbreak and harrowing alienation from society, this remarkable coming-of-age story shows us that sometimes it takes losing everything to find ourselves. This is truly a one of a kind story that will stay on the mind — and in the heart — of readers long after the pages come to an end.
By Rylee Petty, Contributing Writer