Where the Crawdads Sing
Look, I do a new release blog every single week. And, oftentimes, when I'm doing the research, I come across the same names over and over. Breaking through the James Pattersons, the Nora Roberts, and the Stephen Kings of the writing world is darn near impossible. This year, I've made a point to read debut novels. So, without further ado, a debut to read right now.
Where the Crawdads Sing, by Delia Owens.
WTCS is set in the Carolina marsh land and bounces between two story lines. In the first story line, we meet little Kya. She lives in the marsh with her mom, dad, and brothers and sisters. Slowly, one by one, the family members, unable to manage living with an abusive, alcoholic, begin to leave. Eventually, it is just little Kya left to fend for herself. And when I say little, I mean it. She is a baby child who has no business taking care of herself.
Too scared to go to school or interact much with the townspeople, Kya spends her days exploring the marsh. When she comes to the realization that it is truly up to her to ensure her survival, she begins selling mussels and smoked fish to Jumpin'. He owns a small store in town. He and his wife do their best to make sure Kya has food and clothing but, beyond that, she is truly on her own. Most of the people in town refer to her as "the marsh girl" and keep their distance.
The second story line takes place later. It's the same setting, but it's the late sixties. Two young boys are playing in the marsh when they discover a body. The town explodes when they realize it's former star quarterback and they instantly suspect "the marsh girl", who is now a "the marsh woman in her early twenties", but I guess that doesn't roll off the tongue as easily.
So, this is equal parts tragic coming of age story with a strong female lead and murder mystery. It's brilliant.
What I liked:
I loved the descriptive language the author used when talking about the marsh. Look, I have zero interest in visiting an actual marsh. I assume they are teaming with mosquitoes and also snakes. But, the way Owens described it, I sort of wanted to go to a marsh. It is beautifully written.
Her character development, even on secondary characters like Jumpin's wife, was outstanding. She's in, like, four scenes and I feel like I really know her. And I want to. She's a rad lady.
The murder mystery story was great. I love a good mystery, so I was all about that part of the story.
What I didn't like:
This book has been hard to come by at the library. The wait list is loooooooong. So, I put the digital, audio, and hardback copies on hold at the same time to see what would happen. I got the digital, but didn't have time to finish it. So, I ended up listening to the last half. I wasn't always crazy about the narrator's Kya voice. And that's my only complaint.
Reasons to give this book a chance:
The storytelling is brilliant. The characters, like them or not, are whole, complete people. Delia Owens has done the work. Read her book. Like, right now.