Excerpt from Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Where the Crawdads Sing

by Delia Owens

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens X
Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
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  • First Published:
    Aug 2018, 384 pages
    Paperback:
    Mar 2021, 400 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Rebecca Foster
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About this Book

Print Excerpt


Then, the hustle of getting everybody up and fed. Pa not there. He had two settings: silence and shouting. So it was just fine when he slept through, or didn't come home at all.

But this morning, Ma had been quiet; her smile lost, her eyes red. She'd tied a white scarf pirate style, low across her forehead, but the purple and yellow edges of a bruise spilled out. Right after breakfast, even before the dishes were washed, Ma had put a few personals in the train case and walked down the road.

The next morning,Kya took up her post again on the steps, her dark eyes boring down the lane like a tunnel waiting for a train. The marsh beyond was veiled in fog so low its cushy bottom sat right on the mud. Barefoot, Kya drummed her toes, twirled grass stems at doodlebugs, but a six-year-old can't sit long and soon she moseyed onto the tidal flats, sucking sounds pulling at her toes. Squatting at the edge of the clear water, she watched minnows dart between sunspots and shadows.

Jodie hollered to her from the palmettos. She stared; maybe he was coming with news. But as he wove through the spiky fronds, she knew by the way he moved, casual, that Ma wasn't home.

"Ya wanta play explorers?" he asked.

"Ya said ya're too old to play 'splorers."

"Nah, I just said that. Never too old. Race ya!"

They tore across the flats, then through the woods toward the beach. She squealed as he overtook her and laughed until they reached the large oak that jutted enormous arms over the sand. Jodie and their older brother, Murph, had hammered a few boards across the branches as a lookout tower and tree fort. Now, much of it was falling in, dangling from rusty nails.

Usually if she was allowed to crew at all it was as slave girl, bringing her brothers warm biscuits swiped from Ma's pan.

But today Jodie said, "You can be captain."

Kya raised her right arm in a charge. "Run off the Spaniards!" They broke off stick-swords and crashed through brambles, shouting and stabbing at the enemy.

Then--make-believe coming and going easily--she walked to a mossy log and sat. Silently, he joined her. He wanted to say something to get her mind off Ma, but no words came, so they watched the swimming shadows of water striders.

Kya returned to the porch steps later and waited for a long time, but, as she looked to the end of the lane, she never cried. Her face was still, her lips a simple thin line under searching eyes. But Ma didn't come back that day either.

2.

Jodie

1952

After Ma left, over the next few weeks, Kya's oldest brother and two sisters drifted away too, as if by example. They had endured Pa's red-faced rages, which started as shouts, then escalated into fist-slugs, or backhanded punches, until one by one, they disappeared. They were nearly grown anyway. And later, just as she forgot their ages, she couldn't remember their real names, only that they were called Missy, Murph, and Mandy. On her porch mattress, Kya found a small pile of socks left by her sisters.

On the morning when Jodie was the only sibling left, Kya awakened to the clatter-clank and hot grease of breakfast. She dashed into the kitchen, thinking Ma was home frying corn fritters or hoecakes. But it was Jodie, standing at the woodstove, stirring grits. She smiled to hide the letdown, and he patted the top of her head, gently shushing her to be quiet: if they didn't wake Pa, they could eat alone. Jodie didn't know how to make biscuits, and there wasn't any bacon, so he cooked grits and scrambled eggs in lard, and they sat down together, silently exchanging glances and smiles.

They washed their dishes fast, then ran out the door toward the marsh, he in the lead. But just then Pa shouted and hobbled toward them. Impossibly lean, his frame seemed to flop about from poor gravity. His molars yellow as an old dog's teeth.

Kya looked up at Jodie. "We can run. Hide in the mossy place."

Excerpted from Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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