I was fascinated by WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING when I first learned about author Delia Owens’s background studying wildlife in Africa, and her awards as a nature writer. I was in the mood for a book lush in setting and critters and love of the earth. I had hoped this book would fill that need. When the introduction discussed the roots of this story – involving a personal experience with a female baboon – I knew I was off to a good start. (Don’t stop reading if you’re not interested in baboons; this book has nothing to do with them directly!)
Indeed, that first chapter sucked me right into the glowing, wildlife-filled marshes and the blackened, fetid swamps of North Carolina. And I fell in love with the young protagonist, Kya. Not generally a fan of younger narrators or coming-of-age stories, that did not stop me from being fascinated and in awe of Kya’s survival skills and her tie to the marsh and its inhabitants.
The author’s background in science is evident in the book, but not heavy-handed. She blends insight about coastal marsh mammals, fish, birds and various flora, with biological reproductive facts and behaviors, weaving them effortlessly into the story and drawing parallels to human behavior. I learned fascinating information about lightning bugs and praying mantises that I did not know previously, and they were a perfect thematic fit that illustrated Kya’s intense love of the marsh.
The language is often downright gorgeous and sensory in this book that includes themes of nature, motherhood, love, bonding, betrayal, family, prejudice, and murder. This book also includes art and poetry (though, for me, the insertion of the poetry sometimes felt like it broke the flow of the narrative).
WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING is almost a two-for-one in that it is not only truly a character-driven story of emotion and betrayal, but also a murder mystery. Naturally, given my reading tastes (which don’t include mysteries), I was drawn more to the emotional side of the story. And I feel it is here where the author excels — with the more literary aspects of the book. Even so, I think mystery readers will find the book quite rewarding.
Thank you to Goodreads First Reads program and Penguin Random House/Putnam for the chance to read an ARC of this book before release. I look forward to this author’s future work.