Where The Crawdads Sing is something else. After a slow thirty pages or so Delia Owens, in her debut novel at 70 years of age, charms us and grabs our attention. With the most beautiful of fictional characters and gorgeousness of geographical locations we find ourselves captives to a page turner.
That central character Kya is a mesmerising. Reese Witherspoon is making this into a film and Kya will be a brilliant part for someone to play. Owens draws us in as this child watches her mum leave, no longer able to live with her drunken dad. The brothers and sisters leave. Dad eventually too. A child left in a swamp like a female Tarzan, making friends with gulls, marsh, sand and sea. How can we not love Marsh Girl? She even eventually becomes a published expert in her field - or should we say swamp!
Marsh Girl is what the local townsfolk call her. White trash is how the good living exclude her. There is a theme of prejudice. The difference between the posture of the white and black churches is glaring. Near the end, there’s an insightful sentence that can be applied to all of our particular prejudices - “Did we exclude Miss Clark because she was different, or was she different because we excluded her”. Challenging.
Alongside the almost pastoral coming of age story of Kya, we have running alongside it the murder mystery of a local Quarter back handsome hero, Chase.
As we read we discover that Owens, who is a zoologist and has written non fiction about life in the Kalahari, is more at home in the telmatology of the swamplands of North Carolina and what it is to live an isolated life than she is at writing murder mysteries and, as the stories come together, court room dramas.
Owens’ grip is the zip and wonder of a young girl discovering herself on a boat through swampy inlets. Rejected by her entire family she flirts with two loves and again feels that they leave her. Love it seems is ever insecure. She can trust the birds.
Owens’ brilliance is her lyrical almost poetic prose that throws out quotable sentences like a Bob Dylan:
“I wasn’t aware that words could hold so much. I didn’t know a sentence could be so full.”
“She laughed for his sake, something she’d never done. Giving away another piece of herself just to have somebody else.”
“Here the bed loomed as the masterpiece, but the room didn’t look like love.”
“I guess somethings can’t be explained, only forgotten or not.”
“She feels the pulse of life, he thought, because there are no layers between her and the planet.”
“She closed her eyes at such easy acceptance. A deep pause in a lifetime of longing.”
As I have said there are quite a few things that just don’t ring true in the plot, particularly in the last third of the novel but you can still see why Reese Witherspoon is making it into a movie. It is a novel with everything and perhaps a script writer can repair the frays.
Personally, I cannot wait for the film. I am so in love with Kya that I cannot wait to spend time with her again.. Whatever, Where The Crawdads Sing is a beauty of a summer read.