Where the Crawdads Sing

Kya. Kya. Kya.

I found myself saying that repeatedly as I listed to the audio version of Where the Crawdads Sing, a repeated recommendation from friends. The multi-tiered story was a breakout fictional hit for Delia Owens, earning overnight success after it became the September selection for Reese Witherspoon’s Book Club.

Kya — Catherine Danielle Clark — was abandoned, first by her mother, then her siblings, and eventually by her abusive, often drunken father. The main story skillfully follows her journey from a six year old “marsh girl” in the North Carolina backwaters to an accomplished ethological writer, illustrator and marsh expert. We learn how she learns how to survive … on her own, and how she became adept at avoiding people — especially truant officers and the law — with minimal contact in a town that looks down on her.  The only peace she knows are amid the marshes with its own rhythm, flora, fauna,  and ecological structure.

Kya has very limited contact outside the marsh, and no real relationships. Without money and family, she learns self-reliance, including gardening and trading fresh mussels and smoked-fish for money and gas from Jumpin’, a black man who owns a gasoline station for boats. Jumpin’ and his wife Mabel become lifelong good friends — ultimately her only real friends. Tate is introduced by leaving her feathers from rare birds, then teaches her how to read and write. The two form a romantic, yet platonic, relationship. He promised to return to Kya after college, but reneges, rationalizing Kya would never fit into a world outside her familiar marsh. Chase Andrews, Barkley Cove’s star quarterback and playboy, invites her to a picnic, during which he tries to have sex with her. He later apologizes, but the two form a romantic relationship. He shows her an abandoned fire tower, and she gives him a necklace of a shell he found during their picnic, strung on rawhide. Despite her suspicions, she believes Chase’s promises of marriage and consummates their relationship in a cheap motel room in Asheville, NC. After shopping for groceries one day, she reads in the newspaper of Chase’s engagement to another woman, and realizes his promises of marriage were a ruse for sex. She ends their relationship after he attempts to rape her. Her brother Jody, who left her as a child as well, makes a reappearance and a reconnection near the end of the book.

The second story relates to an unexplained death of Chase, who mysteriously fell or was pushed from the abandoned fire tower. The two tales — separated by nearly two decades — become intertwined as the story skips from one story line to the other effortlessly and in a non-intrusive way, each providing background and clues as the timeline narrows.

I enjoyed the narration by Cassandra Campbell, who captured the differences in the characters deftly. I enjoyed the descriptive words penned by Owens, each building a vivid picture in my mind’s eye. I could feel the emotion of Kya’s coming-of age story. I could empathize with Kya and — even as a male — feel her despair as she faced abandonment, disillusionment, and rejection. I knew why Kya felt betrayed.  I even enjoyed the intrigue as the story lines merged. Although I  won’t share the closing chapters — no use spoiling the book for others — the resolutions of the two stories made sense. The words were rich and deep. And yet …

Something was missing. After listening to the audiobook, I just let the words percolate.

Then it hit me. There was a certain lack of plausibility and stereotyping throughout that dropped my rating from five to four stars.

I found it difficult to go back {one of the perks of a paperback} to refresh my thoughts. But, it didn’t seem plausible a six year old could survive at Kya’s level without killing herself or burning the shack down. While she may have known how to cook grits, what six year old logic would think about digging for mussels to barter? As she got older, how did she care for the house? Cut the grass around the shack? Chop wood for the wood stove? How come no one showed up from the government? How was her property not sold for taxes? We learned she was able to eventually get the deed after paying her back taxes after her book was published. Why did her dilapidated reading shack never fall down completely?

It seemed implausible she was able to go from no reading and writing skills to reeling off complex Latin species names in the matter of just a few years. After 60-plus years of learning, I still have difficulty.

The characters all spoke with a decided North Carolina twang, far removed from the King’s English. All the characters. Even Tate, with his Ph.D., had two voices — his everyday drawl and his scholarly sound.

Finally, I want to know who her publisher was. To receive a $5,000 royalty, even in the 1960s, from a no name first time niche author seems a little far fetched, especially since the book was placed in bookstores up and down the east coast with nary a visit among the editor, publisher, or author.

Where the Crawdads Sing was a good listen with rich, descriptive words. It was an interesting story — or stories. I found myself rooting for Kya throughout. I’m just not sure I always believed it.

Where the Crawdads Sing (audiobook), Delia Owens, author; Cassandra Campbell, narrator; Publisher, Penguin Audio (Aug. 14, 2018); $17.15 or 1 credit. Listening Length, 12 hours and 12 minutes; Unabridged; Whispersync for Voice, Ready; English; ASIN, B07FSXPMHY

Paperback, 368 pages, $12. (Prime). Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group (Dec. 10, 2014); Language: English; ISBN-10: 1472154665;ISBN-13: 978-1472154668

 

Kindle, $13.99 after credits; File Size: 3829 KB; Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons (Aug.  14, 2018); Sold by: Penguin Group (USA); Language: English; ASIN: B078GD3DRG; Text-to-Speech: Enabled; X-Ray: Enabled; Word Wise: Enabled; Lending: Not Enabled; Screen Reader: Supported; Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: It is the working man who is the happy man. It is the idle man who is the miserable man. — Benjamin Franklin

About wisdomfromafather

I'm just an ordinary guy walking along the journey of life.
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2 Responses to Where the Crawdads Sing

  1. TamrahJo says:

    :). I recently read and enjoyed this book and promptly sent off requests for library loans and bookmarked sites to learn more about the marshlands.

    For me, hunger and desire drive all kinds of innovative leaps for survival – be it survival of the body or the soul/mind. The journey from not knowing how to light the stove and not reading while introduced and referred to off and on, did seem a series of steps, rather than huge leaps.

    For me, if something is well-written enough and stimulates my grey matter by learning something new, I guess that is all I need to ‘suspend my belief and join the storyteller on their journey’ – – :).

    If you liked this one, overall, for the viewpoint of relationships and a child in natural or unfamiliar territory, you may enjoy Hal Borland and Benjamin Capp works – Here’s the links for each of my faves, from those authors:

    https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1063171.High_Wide_and_Lonesome
    https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/868712.A_Woman_of_the_People

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