‘Where the Crawdads Sing’ Is A Masterclass In Nature Writing

Cover of 'Where the Crawdads Sing' on a cream background with yellow leaves.

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens is making an impact in the book community. The book has over 100,000 reviews on Goodreads and has spent over two years on the New York Times bestseller list. After finishing this book, I’m not surprised to hear about this success, as the protagonist’s drive and the author’s lyrical prose drew me in.

The book focuses on a North Carolinian named Catherine Danielle Clark, nicknamed Kya. As a child, Kya witnesses her mother leaving the family. Kya’s father, an alcoholic, has a short temper and verbally harasses his children. Kya’s four older siblings leave too. One day, Kya’s father leaves the marsh and never returns.

Kya is a resourceful character, as she learns how to shuck oysters and find mussels. Tate Walker, an aspiring biologist who gets accepted into the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, teaches her how to read and supports her interest in art by giving her a watercolor set. When Chase Andrews, a talented football player, and Barkley Cove local, is found dead, the townspeople think Kya is the murderer because she was in a relationship with him.

Kya’s growth is one of the reasons why this book is unforgettable. She attends school once, and the other children make fun of her because she spells a word incorrectly. She doesn’t let this experience define her, as she listens carefully later when Tate teaches her how to write. Kya has an appreciation for storytelling, as evident in the following quote:

“I wasn’t aware that words could hold so much. I didn’t know a sentence could be so full.”

Kya writes books, finds an agent at a publishing company, and paints. She evolves into a curious, determined, and creative woman. It’s an admirable progression, and this book broadcasts the message that readers should not let their past affect them. It’s never too late to pursue a goal and every day is a chance to improve oneself. Kya is an inspiring reminder that one can change their life trajectory and that the future is filled with opportunities.

Owens further examines an important theme. Isolation is prevalent throughout the entire story, as Kya lives in a shack and Barkley Cove locals call her “The Marsh Girl.” She is treated poorly and faces hostility: No one greets her when she goes to the town grocery store, and a woman tells her child not to approach Kya because Kya is “dirty.” Yet Kya refuses to let these displays of intolerance influence her, an indicator that she is a strong woman.

Kya’s note-worthy character development and a heart-breaking theme are powerful components of the story, but the atmospheric writing in Where the Crawdads Sing had the biggest impact on me. The author’s writing is meant to be savoured because the descriptions of nature and people are poetic.

Before writing this book, Owens studied animals in Africa and graduated with a Ph.D. in Animal Behaviour. Where the Crawdads Sing is a testament to her appreciation for nature and her talent in the writing field: She describes sea foam as saliva and compares Tate’s blue veins on his hands to a dragonfly’s nimble feet and blue patches.

The phenomenal nature writing brings a well-deserved spotlight on North Carolina. The book mentions Greenville, a vibrant place in eastern North Carolina, and Asheville, a scenic city in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Kya’s home is one of the many marshlands on the North Carolina coast.

It’s no secret that this Southern state is a popular spot for travelers, as there are over 300 miles of shoreline. If readers can’t make it to a coastal city and long to be near water, reading this fiction book satisfies wanderlust and is the perfect antidote for cabin fever.

The description of the coastline makes the reader feel as if they live in Barkley Cove. This made me happy, as I read this book last year when New York was in the first stage of reopening. The first stage meant that manufacturing and fishing businesses can open. Renowned cultural institutions like the Met and MoMA, along with my favorite stores, remained closed. Travel restrictions meant that I looked forward to reading Where the Crawdads Sing, as I escaped to the American South and its endless stretch of coastline through a book.

Summer 2021 is almost here, as temperatures are increasing and the days are getting longer. The evocative portrayal of water makes Where the Crawdads Sing an ideal book to read during the summer months.

I took my time reading this book last summer, and my favorite habit was to sit on a chair outside and tan while reading it. Reading about the North Carolina coastline while feeling the sun on my skin was a perfect combination. Since last summer was different and less lively than previous summers, I loved forming a peaceful habit like sitting outside and reading.

I’m still interested in maintaining this habit in summer 2021, and I know fellow bibliophiles will love reading Where the Crawdads Sing this season. A cold glass of lemonade or a scoop of ice cream would be the perfect companions to this book featuring undaunted characters.

Reese Witherspoon’s production company, Hello Sunshine, is making a movie version. Daisy-Edgar Jones, the actress acclaimed for her role in Normal People, stars as Kya and is filming in Louisiana. Where the Crawdads SingNormal People, and Outer Banks defined my lockdown last year, and it’s thrilling to hear how two worlds are colliding. The upcoming movie release is your incentive to read the book before you enjoy the movie.


Did you enjoy this book review? Read more about what books inspired and moved us on our Book Reviews page. And if you want to support independent journalism, please consider doing so through our Donations page. Thank you for reading!

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