Posts filed under ‘September 2018’

Filling the void – “Where the Crawdads Sing” by Delia Owens

I will begin by saying when I read the description of this book I was not particularly won 51c9IKSZT9L._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg
over.  But for some reason, it still landed in my book pile.  Perhaps my concern was about the natural world focus which is not typically my favorite kind of book. I am not usually a fan of long rambling descriptions of the natural world and how it preys on the lives of the characters.   So when the jacket said the main character found her friends “in the seagulls and lessons in the sand” I may have rolled my eyes.  But what I am admitting is that after finishing this book my prejudice against this type of book is now just embarrassing.  This book was fascinating, heartbreaking and quite simply amazing.

Kya is the youngest in a large family of Swamp trash, living in the marshland in North Carolina.  At a very young age, she watches the tides, the turtles, the frogs, feeds the seagulls with her sister, runs barefoot in the marsh grasses.  Her father is a drunken-abusive veteran  who one by one drives the other family members away – first her mother, then each sibling, leaving just six-year-old Kya and her father.  Eventually even her father leaves.  And so, Kya is alone finding ways to make money to survive – mussel digging and smoking fish to deliver to the local store down on the water.  To the small town several miles down the marshes, she becomes the legendary “Marsh Girl” uneducated, dressed in rags, and solitary.

Over time, two boys appear in her life. One you know from the first page of the book is killed years later and the other becomes her greatest advocate.  The death of the one serves as the suspenseful element of the book but seemed less important to me than the story of Kya’s life itself.   Truly, what makes this book so beautiful is not the suspense of a “who-done-it” thriller but rather the stark loneliness of Kya’s life which leaves her to became a great observer of  the natural world around her.

Delia’s writing of Kya and her life in the marsh, her survival, but also her understanding of the magic of things, that other people take for granted in a land that was cast-off as unsustainable for valuable life, is really what makes this book.  Kya knows feathers and the value of the rare colors of birds that leave the feathers behind. She understand shells and sand patterns.  She can tell what the sky will bring later in the day and what tides are safe to navigate.  Some of these passages remind me of the beautiful passages in “All the Light We Cannot See” where you could feel the sea shells in your hands.  Here you can smell the salt-air and hear the wind.  Delia writes beautiful observations that softly land on the page and take your breath when they do:

“Autumn leaves don’t fall, they fly. They take their time and wander on this their only chance to soar.”

The author’s background in writing about the natural world serves her ability to develop Kya’s character in an unexpected way.   Because of Kya’s existence in this wild life, you can feel how raw she is, how innocent and unassuming, but also how resilient.  She is gritty and real, living on the constant edge of her fight or flight instincts.

Most of what she knew, she’d learned from the wild. Nature had nurtured, tutored, and protected her when no one else would. If consequences resulted from her behaving differently then they too were functions of life’s fundamental core.

I really can’t say much more because to get into the plot would truly diminish the magic of the writing and the book.  Again, not because the plot is poorly crafted but because to write it out will sound far more simplistic than it truly is. I will say the last 20 pages of the book my heart was twisted in knots, desperately rooting for Kya and an eventual end to her lonely existence. But, conflicted because I also wanted that end only in the way that would make her connection with others meaningful to her because that is what seemed to matter most.   The kind of character that moves you that deeply is rare and I am so grateful she landed in my to-read pile despite my earlier reluctance.

As I listen to the crickets outside, autumn is in the air with its foggy mornings, brilliant leaves, pumpkins and crisp air. And so I can only hope your days are full of sweaters, cups of tea, and pages of wonderful characters.  And if you run across those characters let me know where I can find them too.

September 30, 2018 at 9:58 pm 5 comments


There is some great literature out there, but there is a lot of bad literature as well. We shouldn't all have to read it. These are my recommendations and thoughts about the books I read.


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