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What readers think of Where the Crawdads Sing, plus links to write your own review.

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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
  • Critics' Opinion:

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  • First Published:
    Aug 2018, 384 pages

    Mar 2021, 400 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Rebecca Foster
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There are currently 24 reader reviews for Where the Crawdads Sing
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Power Reviewer
Cloggie Downunder

an outstanding debut.
Where The Crawdads Sing is the first novel by award-winning, best-selling American wildlife scientist and author, Delia Owens. In 1952, when she is almost seven, Miss Catherine Daniella Clark, known to everyone as Kya, watches her mother leave. She doesn’t return, and her older siblings, fed up with their abusive, alcoholic father, quietly slip away, one by one, leaving her to deal with her Pa, Jake Clark in their North Carolina marsh shack on her own.

They form an uneasy alliance: Pa is often gone for days at a time, and Kya learns to look after herself, conceal her mother’s absence from nosy Barkley Cove shopkeepers, hide from truant officers, and appreciate the beauty of the marsh and its creatures. Things get more difficult when she’s ten: Pa goes off and doesn’t return, meaning the sporadic cash he gives her from his disability cheques dries up and she has to fend for herself if she doesn’t want to give herself up to the authorities. Which she doesn’t.

She does have Pa’s boat, can travel the marsh waters to the estuary, pick mussels and oysters to trade. She covers the fact that Pa is gone, trying to stay under the radar, but there is a boy for whom she keeps an eye out: Tate Walker was kind to her once, shares her love of the marsh, and doesn’t feel dangerous like some do. She’s unaware that some others are looking out for her, concerned about her welfare and surreptitiously providing some of what she needs.

By the time she’s fourteen, she’s adept at fending for herself and staying under the radar. Her interest in marsh flora and fauna is boundless; she collects and sketches specimens, and when Tate offers to teach her to read and write, she’s able to record what she knows and observes. Abandoned by everyone in her family, she’s wary of giving her love, but takes a chance with Tate. Then he goes off to college to study the thing they’re both interested in, and breaks his promise to return.

Kya is absorbed in her study of the marsh, but still lonely, until Chase Andrews begins to take an interest in her…

In late October 1969, Sheriff Ed Jackson is alerted of the death of a local by two young boys who have caught sight of the corpse near an abandoned fire tower. Chase Andrews, star quarterback, town hotshot and favourite son of Barkley Cove, has been dead some ten hours, and when the Sheriff and Deputy Joe Purdue examine the scene, they are mystified: there are no tyre tracks or foot prints anywhere near the body. It looks like Chase fell from the tower, but neither are there fingerprints.

There’s plenty of speculation in the town: despite being married to Pearl, Chase was known for his tomcatting, so perhaps he fell foul of a jealous husband? But Barkley Cove is a small town, and enough people knew of his regular visits to the Marsh Girl that suspicion falls on Kya.

Owens gives the reader a dual-timeline coming-of-age tale, a love story, a murder mystery and a courtroom drama, all enclosed in some gorgeous lyrical prose. Her vivid descriptions really evoke the setting, the peace and beauty of the marsh, and the era, while there is enough intrigue to keep most readers guessing about the young man’s fate until the final reveal. Moving, heart-breaking and beautifully written, this is an outstanding debut.
Power Reviewer
Cathryn Conroy

Ingenious! Incredible! A Must-Read Book That Will Grab Your Heart and Soul
Oh. My. Goodness. Yes, all the hype is true. This is an incredible book that broke my heart, made me laugh out loud, made me shake my head in wonder, made me cry real tears several times, and made me oh-so-sad when it ended. (Book hangover!)

Ingeniously plotted, the story begins in 1952 when the lead character, Kya, is six years old. And while the story is told chronologically from the 1950s to the early 1970s, it bounces ahead in time to 1969-70 and then retreats to the 50s-60s until the two merge. While at its core, this is the story of Kya's lonely and alarming life in North Carolina's primitive and untamed coastal marshes (the '50s and '60s), it is also—around the edges—a murder mystery (1969-70).

Kya, the youngest of five children, lives in a dilapidated swamp shack with her impoverished parents and siblings—until one by one, they leave. Shy and terrified, the abandoned Kya does what no child should have to do: survive on her own. This is the story of not only her survival, but also her triumphs and redemption. It is a story about prejudice, evil, abuse and hate, as well as a story of the transformative power of love.

Bonus: This is also a love story to the coastal marshlands. The descriptions of the flora and fauna are so detailed and the imagery so vivid, that the reader can totally visualize the lush land and teeming waterways—if not actually feel the need to scratch at nonexistent mosquito bites! The book is filled with facts that are presented in such a fascinating and utterly interesting way, that I found myself wanting to know more about everything from female fireflies' bizarre and cruel mating habits to why seagulls have a bright red spot on their beaks and what creates the iridescence of a hummingbird's golden-red throat.

This is a must-read book!
Andrea Stone

Where The Crawdads Sing
Awesome Book!

What a good read! I hope the author writes another novel - this was a superbly written book.
Kevin l

I really enjoyed this book
This was a beautiful story. Great characters very suspenseful, very hard to put down. Thank you Mrs. Owens.

Strong Southern Women
I enjoyed reading this book and often did not want to put it down. The author creates a vivid story of an underdog while craftfully taking you to a place of recognition that humans can be cruel and uncaring which is far worse than loneliness could ever be. The descriptions of the southern people in the story often closely matches the narrow mindedness within communities in the past as well as the present towards those who are different from themselves. While the setting was in the 1960s I believe it accurately describes the clannish mentality many years ago. While things have changed significantly there is still room for more change amongst humans to truly love thy neighbor and not just on Sunday’s at 10am. I liked the book very much.

Where the Crawdads Sing
I must say, I hate books that make me cry, but my book club wanted to read this one so I resolutely slogged into it expecting a deluge. There were some tears but mostly amazement at the book's descriptions (and the character's experience) of a tidal environment with all its diversity. The main character was much like me--I enjoyed her survival story, her struggle to overcome loneliness and rejection, and eventual maturation into an accomplished writer and artist. There's much to be said for a solitary life immersed in nature, but we usually associate this with men such as Emerson, Muir, Thoreau, etc., and not with women. This book shatters the myth and reveals the mysteries that women alone in wilderness can experience. However, I'm always disconcerted that stories about women leading unusual lives always need an explanation of how their childhoods led them "astray." I wish Crawdads had just started with the main character stepping into her boat and motoring off into an incredible adventure and a rich life.

Page Turner
Once you get your nose in this book you won’t want to close it! Get ready to sit back and put yourself in the time of a girl living in a marsh experiencing prejudices among the people in the local town.
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