Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. I picked up this book simply for the reason it has been in the New York Times Bestseller list for quite a while now. That made me curious. Is this bestseller also a book worth reading? This is my short review.
Where the Crawdads Sing
Besides the fact it is a bestseller I also liked the summary that was on the back cover of the book. What I read there reminded me of one of my favorite books by Dutch writer Maarten ‘t Hart, A Flight of Curlews (Een vlucht regenwulpen). That is a story about a lonely boy that grows up in isolation, together with nature. Where the Crawdads Sing seemed to be a similar story. Even the title of the book is similar! This time it is the story of a small girl that grows up in total isolation in a marsh somewhere in the United States.
The writer, Delia Owens, used to be a wildlife scientist in Africa. As a coauthor she had already written three bestselling nonfiction books about her life as a scientist. Where the Crawdads Sing is her first novel.
Kya, The Marsh Girl
The story is about Kya, ‘The Marsh Girl’ who is abandoned by her entire family, except her abusive dad. They live in a small shack in the marsh. In – almost total – isolation. Her only real family are the seagulls and the creatures of the swamps and marshes.
Where the Crawdads Sing is also a detective story, because it al starts with a dead body of a young man that is found at the bottom of a fire tower in the swamp. Was he killed? And – if so – by whom?
I really enjoyed the extensive descriptions of nature. You can tell that the writer has a true passion for nature and wildlife and likes telling us about it’s wonders. She uses beautiful lyrical prose in her descriptions.
The story and the main character are interesting enough to keep you reading and finish the book. You really want to learn more about Kya’s life.
Small town murder mystery
The ‘small town murder mystery’ in the story is okay but does get a bit tedious. There are the obligatory, ignorant pie-eating sheriffs and deputies. And there are some mean and strange ‘small town people’. Some are real caricatures. I sometimes thought I was watching an episode of Fargo or even Twin Peaks.
Soap opera elements
But the thing that bothered me the most were the shallow ‘soap opera’ elements in the story. Yes, it is about ‘finding true love, infidelity, heartbreak and revenge.’ We even have a popular, abusive, muscular boy that is captain of the football team. Which makes a very strange and quite unbelievable combination with the shy and isolated Kya. And ofcourse we have the sweet and caring, smart boy that would be a much better match with Kya. I almost could hear the soapies yell: choose him! Not that lying, abusive bastard! Anyway…
I realize that I am comparing the book with my favorite: Maarten ‘t Hart’s A Flight of Curlews. Which is not fair. Because that is a very different book. But with a similar story and also written by a Biologist that has a true passion for nature. To be honest, even that book has some ‘soap opera elements’ in it. But it is much more subtle and believable. And has many (more) different layers.
But still, Where the Crawdads Sing is a book I enjoyed reading and had no trouble finishing. But it would have been much more interesing without the ‘small town murder mystery weirdness’ and ‘soap opera elements’.