Just as Proust was carried back to his childhood by a madeleine dipped in tea, give me a well written Southern story and the long dormant taproot that connects me to the red clay of my ancestors awakens and tugs at my soul. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens takes place in the North Carolina low country, but those of us raised on sweet tea and lumpy grits will recognize the scenes of marsh grass rustling and Blue Jay screeches as their own.
Jumping back and forth between 1952 and 1969, we follow the story of Kya Clark as her large, impoverished family whittles away under the abuse of a drunken father (think Huckleberry Finn) until only the 10-year-old “Marsh Girl” is left in the ramshackle cabin at the edge of the North Carolina backwaters. Through trial and error and the help of a local black family that runs a dockside store, Kya not only survives, she thrives.
Though never given a “proper” public education, Kya’s bright intelligence takes in the natural world around her and provides meaning amidst the isolation. Soon, two young men enter her Spanish Moss covered world. One will teach her to read and classify the birds, bugs, and plants around her. The other will awaken the yearning that exists in all humans. One of these men will end up dead.
Although this is Owens’ first novel, her extensive resume includes many non-fiction works that cover her work in Africa’s Kalahari region. She received a BS in Zoology as well as a PH.D. in Animal Behavior. This love of nature shines through in her description of the North Carolina tidal areas and Kya’s detailed observations of the life there. It’s easy to imagine the black mud oozing between your toes as you watch a heron standing in the mist on one leg while it gulps down a morning frog.
Like the South itself, Where the Crawdads Sing is both simple and complex. It’s a story that is as rich as a thick gumbo yet made from the most humble of ingredients. Afterwards, you’ll set the book down and be satisfied and nourished down to your soul.
— James Jensen
August 2018 Indie Next List
“Where the Crawdads Sing is a stunning and beautiful novel that readers will want to simultaneously savor and devour with every luxurious word. You’ll hear the gulls cry on the beach through these pages, you’ll see the light flickering through the marsh trees, you’ll smell the homemade grits sizzling on the stovetop. Your heart will ache for the lonely marsh girl and your wheels will start turning when a body is discovered, but you’ll never regret reading this gorgeous novel.”
— Amanda Zirn, Bethany Beach Books, Bethany Beach, DE
NOW A MAJOR MOTION PICTURE—The #1 New York Times bestselling worldwide sensation with more than 15 million copies sold, hailed by The New York Times Book Review as “a painfully beautiful first novel that is at once a murder mystery, a coming-of-age narrative and a celebration of nature.”
For years, rumors of the “Marsh Girl” have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals 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.
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.
About the Author
Delia Owens is the coauthor of three internationally bestselling nonfiction books about her life as a wildlife scientist in Africa. She holds a BS in Zoology from the University of Georgia and a PhD in Animal Behavior from the University of California at Davis. She has won the John Burroughs Award for Nature Writing and has been published in Nature, The African Journal of Ecology, and International Wildlife, among many others. She lives in the mountains of North Carolina. Where the Crawdads Sing is her first novel.
“A painfully beautiful first novel that is at once a murder mystery, a coming-of-age narrative and a celebration of nature....Owens here surveys the desolate marshlands of the North Carolina coast through the eyes of an abandoned child. And in her isolation that child makes us open our own eyes to the secret wonders—and dangers—of her private world.”—The New York Times Book Review
“Steeped in the rhythms and shadows of the coastal marshes of North Carolina’s Outer Banks, this fierce and hauntingly beautiful novel centers on...Kya’s heartbreaking story of learning to trust human connections, intertwine[d] with a gripping murder mystery, revealing savage truths. An astonishing debut.”—People
“This lush mystery is perfect for fans of Barbara Kingsolver.”—Bustle
“A lush debut novel, Owens delivers her mystery wrapped in gorgeous, lyrical prose. It’s clear she’s from this place—the land of the southern coasts, but also the emotional terrain—you can feel it in the pages. A magnificent achievement, ambitious, credible and very timely.”—Alexandra Fuller, New York Times bestselling author of Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight
“Heart-wrenching...A fresh exploration of isolation and nature from a female perspective along with a compelling love story.”—Entertainment Weekly
“This wonderful novel has a bit of everything—mystery, romance, and fascinating characters, all told in a story that takes place in North Carolina.”—Nicholas Sparks, New York Times bestselling author of Every Breath
“Delia Owen’s gorgeous novel is both a coming-of-age tale and an engrossing whodunit.”—Real Simple
“Evocative...Kya makes for an unforgettable heroine.”—Publishers Weekly
“The New Southern novel...A lyrical debut.”—Southern Living
“A nature-infused romance with a killer twist.”—Refinery29
“Anyone who liked The Great Alone will want to read Where the Crawdads Sing....This astonishing debut is a beautiful and haunting novel that packs a powerful punch. It’s the first novel in a long time that made me cry.”—Kristin Hannah, author ofThe Great AloneandThe Nightingale
“Both a coming-of-age story and a mysterious account of a murder investigation told from the perspective of a young girl...Through Kya’s story, Owens explores how isolation affects human behavior, and the deep effect that rejection can have on our lives.”—Vanity Fair
“Lyrical...Its appeal ris[es] from Kya’s deep connection to the place where makes her home, and to all of its creatures.”—Booklist
“This beautiful, evocative novel is likely to stay with you for many days afterward....absorbing.”—AARP
“This haunting tale captivates every bit as much for its crime drama elements as for the humanity at its core.” —Mystery & Suspense Magazine
“Compelling, original...A mystery, a courtroom drama, a romance and a coming-of-age story, Where the Crawdads Sing is a moving, beautiful tale. Readers will remember Kya for a long, long time.”—ShelfAwareness
“With prose luminous as a low-country moon, Owens weaves a compelling tale of a forgotten girl in the unforgiving coastal marshes of North Carolina. It is a murder mystery/love story/courtroom drama that readers will love, but the novel delves so much deeper into the bone and sinew of our very nature, asking often unanswerable questions, old and intractable as the marsh itself. A stunning debut!”—Christopher Scotton, author of The Secret Wisdom of the Earth
“A compelling mystery with prose so luminous it can cut through the murkiest of pluff mud.”—Augusta Chronicle
“Carries the rhythm of an old time ballad. It is clear Owens knows this land intimately, from the black mud sucking at footsteps to the taste of saltwater and the cry of seagulls.”—David Joy, author of The Line That Held Us