Is this the last of the prose? A Book Review of Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
Aware of a wild animal nearby, your heart stops. The crack of a twig, splitting the stillness of a forest, sets your pulse into the hundreds. Your ears create a soundscape around you as your eyes dart over the branches. And then you see it, a three-ounce bird or chipmunk. Your entire body relaxes, and you peer into their world, amazed.
We first meet Kya, the female protagonist from Delia Owens’ Where the Crawdads Sing, in the same way we encounter a wild animal in its natural habitat. Her tragic beginnings shock and enrage every sense of justice in our souls. We flip the pages madly, to try and make sense of her circumstances. Then we see her peaceful world in the Marsh, and calm settles over us. Readers enjoy the beautiful world Kya lives in. We watch and study Kya, but never approach her. And her life, from birth to death, spans the entire novel.
The novel has its fair share of conflict. A lone child raised up by the wilderness cannot emerge an adult unscathed. The people who try to infiltrate her environment almost instantly became the enemy. Children mock her, teenage boys try to take advantage of her, and adults criminalize her. Despite these things pointing to the unnatural circumstances of Kya’s upbringing, the book presents a strong enough argument to question the truth, that children need to be raised in homes with parents and other children. I shocked myself a few times thinking if everyone would leave her alone, she would be fine.
As the book progresses, Kya is anything but okay or adjusted. Yet, good fiction allows us space to question the truths of life. Author Delia Owens ushered me into a space where I could love nature a little more than people. She offered me a scenario where I chose the wild and free over the ordered and predictable. Kya does not live dangerously, but she does live differently and that is where her risk comes from.
The style of this novel works because Owens is a nature observer. It all began in her childhood, when her mother sent her out into the woods for lazy afternoons listening for animals. Her connection to nature deepened during a nine-year field study in remote Botswana. All her writings, prior to this debut fiction novel, were nonfiction case studies of wild animals in their ecology. It seems though, the two genres are not exclusive for her. Where the Crawdads Sing is proof, Owens is a master of recording harmony in nature through prose.
Upon finishing this book, a sad thought came to mind. Owens is an expert on Kya, and thus Where the Crawdads Sing is the leading material on her. In recent interviews, following the book release, she comments on how Kya has been in her heart for many years. If Owens spent so many years crafting this beautiful and complex novel, will she ever publish something this wonderful again? Are there any other stories for Owens to share with us?
This novel must be added to your collection. It earned the buy and keep status for its originality, stunning prose and poetry, and connection to scene. I lived in the Marsh with Kya the entire breadth of the novel. After listening to parts on audiobook, I spoke with a North Carolina accent for a week. Despite being emerged in the story and loving Kya, I cannot give it the read yearly status due to the ending. No spoilers from me, but the classic ‘who done it’ can never be undone.
Books Alike but Different to Where The Crawdads Sing: