One day, Kya watched her mother walk away from their home and never return. Soon thereafter, her brothers and sisters begin to move away, until Kya remains alone with an abusive father. However, he soon leaves, too, leaving the little girl completely alone in a run-down shack in the swamp. While she tries to survive on her own, and keeping her distance from the townspeople who disparage her family, Kya becomes a recluse shrouded in mystery, earning her the name ‘The Marsh Girl’.
Despite her isolation and loneliness, Kya’s world is filled with beauty and adventure through the marsh that is her home. While she never goes to school, she creates her own education in nature, becoming an expert in the animal and plant life that surrounds her. In addition, she is tutored in reading and mathematics by a local boy, who realizes Kya’s intellect in potential through the tiny glimpses he is afforded into her life.
Despite her shaky relationship with the townspeople, and her unusual lifestyle, Kya grows up into a beautiful, smart young woman, who catches the eye of Chase, the local heartthrob. When Chase’s body is discovered in the marsh, the police and townspeople are convinced that Kya is responsible. Suddenly thrust into the spotlight, Kya must overcome her aversion to the town and prove her innocence.
Where the Crawdads Sing is nothing short of a triumph. Owens has created something that merges different styles, genres and topics into a solid, polished gem. Kya’s story is a clever coming of age novel and whodunnit, playing on the reader’s emotions to such an extent that Kya feels real and tangible; a friend you welcome into your life. Owens has a talent for creating characters that are complex, challenging and human – both flawed and fantastic. Equally impressive is her ability to create tension of the best kind; it has you yearning to skip ahead a few pages to see what happens and know more.
Kya’s relationship with nature is an additional attraction – Owens' descriptions and imagery make you feel as though there’s a budding environmentalist in you, inspiring a sense of adventure into the unknown marsh waters, and appreciation for the wild.
There’s nothing to fault in this book, and I cannot praise it enough – everything from characters to setting to plot is impressive, convincing and moving. This book will speak to the hearts of any reader, and will no doubt linger in your thoughts long after you finish it; a sign of a truly great book.
Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens is published by Corsair Books, and is available in South Africa from Jonathan Ball Publishers.