A friend sent me a copy of Where the Crawdads Sing as an audio book, and I spent a week of evenings listening, entranced by this wonderful story which is enhanced by the very evocative reading by Cassandra Campbell.
I was so captivated by the story, that I have now also bought the paperback and I would really urge everyone to read this wonderful novel, which is a huge American best seller, and is now prominently featured in most UK bookstores.
Set in the marshlands of North Carolina, “Where the land meets the sea,” the story focuses on Kya Clark, growing up in the 1950s. She lives with her family in poor and difficult circumstances, and is eventually abandoned to rear herself. Regarded as an outsider by the nearby townsfolk, the ‘Marsh Girl’ survives with only a few helping hands and her own remarkable inner strength. Her spirit thrives on the wonder of the wilderness around her and she develops a deep knowledge of, and kindred feeling with, her environment and the creatures within it.
There is a parallel story starting in the late 1960s, with a death which stuns the town community. Gradually two strands of the story become entwined, one working forwards in time, charting Kya’s development into a resourceful but feral young woman. The other works backwards, tracking the investigation into the death and the search to find who is responsible. Eventually the two strands meet in a gripping, anguished trial, with echoes of To Kill a Mockingbird.
To say much more about the plot would diminish the many twists, turns, surprises and shocks which keeps the reader, or listener, hooked throughout. The author, Delia Owens is a zoologist and the book is full of her own knowledge and love of the natural world, which she conveys through poetic descriptions and vivid images. It is easy to envisage the mysterious marshland and woods, and to develop a mental map of the bays Kya travels in her small boat. I felt I knew the characters, caring deeply about the abandoned girl and excluded young woman, thinking about the story in between episodes. It is truly a remarkable book which inhabits your thoughts like this.
Delia Owens signing copies of her best-selling novel, “Where the Crawdads Sing,” at the New York Botanical Garden in September. “I have never connected with people the way I have with my readers,” she said. “I wasn’t expecting that.”Credit...Brittainy Newman/The New York Times
This is Delia Owens’ debut novel – what a find! I shall be looking out for all her future novels and hope there are many of them.
Rosalind Turner. Programme Director, Shoreham Wordfest
Biographical Notes: Delia Owens.
Delia Owens lived in some of the most remote areas of Africa for twenty three years while she conducted scientific research on lions, elephants and others. Based on these expeditions and adventures, she co-authored three internationally bestselling nonfiction books about her life as a wildlife scientist.
She earned a Bachelor of Science degree in zoology from the University of Georgia and a Ph.D. in Animal Behavior from the University of California in Davis. She has won the John Burroughs Award for Nature Writing and has been published in Nature, Journal of Mammalogy, The African Journal of Ecology, and International Wildlife, among many others. She currently lives in Idaho.
Where the Crawdads Sing is her first novel.