‘Where the Crawdads Sing’ by Delia Owens: Book Review

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“A Marsh is not a swamp, a marsh is a space of light where grass grows in water…Then within the marsh, here and there, true, swamp…Swamp water is still dark, having swallowed the light in its muddy throat. …the swamp is quiet” (1969, page 11, Prologue).

‘Where the Crawdads Sing’ by Delia Owens is all about resilience and survival, but also isolation. This book is set in North Carolina and jumps to multiple points in time to tell the story of Kya Clark also known as the Marsh Girl. She lives in the Marsh on the outskirts of town where she is looked down upon and judged. She only went to one day of school in her life and is called illiterate and unclean. She is known as the girl who cannot spell ‘dog’, she is known as the Marsh Girl.

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‘Where the Crawdads Sing’ consistently circles around the concept of abandonment. At six she watched her mother leave without looking back, she watched as each of her siblings left for their own lives, as the school system, as the entire town turned their backs. All who were left were Nature, who took their place. Kya learned how to fend for herself, from hiding to getting food.

The novel is based on racism and within this slavery. From the 1700’s-1860’s Maroons ran from their homes to the Great Dismal Swamp of North Carolina. Here they sought refuge, conditions were harsh but they were free and safer than in the life they left behind.

This book does not focus on this but their descendants, and how they grew up in the swamp. Authors such as Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Harriet Beecher Stowe showed this life of a slave. ‘Where the Crawdads Sing’ is set nearly 100 years later showing how people adapted and the hardships of life. It does show racial inequality and how people can see how this defies someone. But it shows the struggle of loneliness, the hardships of trying to stay alive in a world where everyone is against you.

In 1969 two boys found Chase Andrews’s body lying in the mud under the fire tower. Going through an investigation the ‘Marsh Girl’ is accused of murder. During Kya’s trial, she is locked up kept from the marsh. She thought she understood lonely, every day with no one around but herself, and the marsh. Here in her cell, there is no one as she awaits the verdict.

In 1995 on a conservation mission in Zambia Delia Owen’s husband Mark Owens and her stepson were accused of murder. It started in Africa and found the nature surrounding them was astounding, and they wanted to protect it. They fought against the government on many occasions trying to give a better life to the animals that humans were hurting.

From getting exiled from Botswana to Zambia, where they found the elephant population greatly decreasing due to poaching. The park scouts that were supposed to protect the elephants but were both intimidated and far outmatched by the poachers. The Owens started raising money from American and European donors that were willing to help supply the scouts. The government then gave them the title ‘honorary game rangers’ that they mentioned from their memoir ‘Eye of the Elephant’ and with this power they had control over the scouts. They raided villages in search of the poachers or their ‘winnings’. In a letter Mark had written it said that his scouts had killed two poachers already. When ABC aired ‘Deadly Game: The Mark and Delia Owens Story’ the Zambian officials were wary of these outsiders having the power to have a shoot-to-kill policy. The American government warned Owens that they should stay out of Zambia until this issue was resolved.

When Delia writes about this new murder mystery in ‘Where the Crawdads Sing’ she portrays the isolation very well. What creeps me out is the fact that she, Delia, was not accused of murder and in ‘Where the Crawdads Sing’ Kya is also proven innocent. It's very shocking at the end but you'll have to read it for yourself to find out.

As I was reading this book, I thought I couldn't enjoy it. It was historical fiction and from experience not all of them are fun. It's how the authors portray not just the characters but the time that they had to live in, so different from ours. The entire point of reading historical fiction is to be outside of your comfort zone to experience something new. That's what reading is supposed to be about. ‘Where the Crawdads Sing’ it shows not only a different time but a different life than most of us are used to. Having to survive on your own, having now one but yourself. How hard it is to be an outcast.

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‘Where the Crawdads Sing’ by Delia Owens: Book Review. (2022, December 15). Edubirdie. Retrieved July 16, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/where-the-crawdads-sing-by-delia-owens-book-review/
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