Saturday’s Pick: A story of Abandonment – Where the Crawdads Sing
I chose to listen to the audiobook version of Where the Crawdads Sing. It was highly recommended by the Reese Witherspoon Book Club. Like so many other readers, I love a book which begins with a feeling of total abandonment, yet ends on a note of hope. Is there anything more we can ask for?
This is the story of Kya Clark, the Marsh Girl, living on the coast of North Carolina. Kya is quite young at the beginning of the book. But, she’s old enough to recognize her father’s abusive ways and her mother’s fear.
When her mother can’t take it any longer and decides to leave, Kya’s world dissolves. The ache of abandonment is overwhelming for the young girl.
Kya’s siblings eventually escape like their mother. Everyone is gone, leaving Kya alone to fend for herself when it comes to her father’s abusive habits.
She quickly learns how to avoid his outbursts and the two settle into a routine. Eventually, he disappears from her life too.
Some readers had difficulty believing a young girl can learn to cook and care for herself in a remote location. And yet, I heard of a two-year-old who took care of an infant sibling for days when abandoned by their mother in the midwest.
Abandonment: Growing Up in the Marshlands
As Kya grows into a teenager, she becomes fixated on a boy named Tate. He leaves remarkable treasures in the marsh for her to discover.
Eventually, he expands her world by teaching her to read. Kya marvels at the concept of love. For the first time in her life, she begins to open up and share.
The feelings of abandonment intensify when Tate suddenly disappears from her life. Another young man who has shown interest in her turns up dead. Will the locals find a way to pin his death on her?
This is a story of heart-breaking loss, determination, and confusing opportunities. A child can survive without the loving care of parents. But to say they are unbroken is a fantasy. Kya may never fully survive the abandonment of her childhood. What lengths will she take to survive?
My personal journey after reading the book is here.
New York Times Bestseller
Where the Crawdads Sing is A Reese Witherspoon x Hello Sunshine Book Club Pick
“I can’t even express how much I love this book! I didn’t want this story to end!”–Reese Witherspoon
“Painfully beautiful.”–The New York Times Book Review
“Perfect for fans of Barbara Kingsolver.”–Bustle
For years, rumors of the “Marsh Girl” have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. So in late 1969, when the locals discover the body of handsome Chase Andrews, they immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl. But Kya is not what they say. Sensitive and intelligent, she has survived for years alone in the marsh that she calls home, finding friends in the gulls and lessons in the sand. Then the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. When two young men from town become intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new life–until the unthinkable happens.
Perfect for fans of Barbara Kingsolver and Karen Russell, Where the Crawdads Sing is at once an exquisite ode to the natural world, a heartbreaking coming-of-age story, and a surprising tale of possible murder. Owens reminds us that we are forever shaped by the children we once were and that we are all subject to the beautiful and violent secrets that nature keeps.
An Amazon Best Book of August 2018: Although this is Delia Owens’ first novel, she long ago distinguished herself as a gifted writer. In the mid-80s, Owens co-wrote with her husband Cry of the Kalahari, which was a best-selling, nonfictional account of traveling and researching Africa’s Kalahari Desert. One of the joys of that book was the Owens’ description of the natural world, and Where the Crawdads Sing is immersed in the natural world as well.
The story is set in the 1950s and revolves around a young woman named Kya Clark, who is from extremely rural North Carolina. Known by others as the Marsh Girl, she lives alone in nature—but the draw of other people and specifically love brings her into contact with the greater world.
This novel has a mystery at its core, but it can be read on a variety of levels. There is great nature writing; there is a coming of age, and there is literature. Crawdads is a story lovingly told—one that takes its time in developing its characters and setting, and in developing the story. You’ll want to relax and take your time as well, and when you’re done you will want to talk about it with another reader. – Chris Schluep , Amazon Book Review
About the Author
Delia Owens is the co-author of three internationally bestselling nonfiction books about her life as a wildlife scientist in Africa including Cry of the Kalahari.
She won the John Burroughs Award for Nature Writing. You can find her works published in Nature, The African Journal of Ecology, and many others.
She currently lives in Idaho. Where the Crawdads Sing is her first novel.
Delia and her husband, Mark, are zoologists who have written several books about their animal conservation efforts in Africa. Some thought they were a bit crazy when they left the University of Georgia to embark on their journey to Botswana. They lived in isolation there for seven years with only the wild animals as their neighbors. However, they did not live in complete abandonment, they had each other.
In a review of Cry of the Kalahari in People magazine, Jim Seymore wrote:
“Read their remarkable book to be delighted, moved and awed by life and death in a world without the man that yet may be ended by him.”
A Personal View
Click to see an interview with Ms. Owens on YouTube.
Click Here to see the interview on CBS Sunday Morning
Now that her husband is gone, Delia Owens understands what it’s like to experience total abandonment. Perhaps it’s why she wrote Mya’s story with such empathy and hope.
Connect with Delia Owens: