Book review: Where the Crawdads Sing, Delia Owens

Recently, my Mum decided to start running an online book club for her friends, allowing them to share recommendations and reviews to each other during the lockdown period. Whilst we were searching for potential 'book of the month' choices, we came across Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. I'd previously read many raving reviews about the book online, as had my Mum, and so we decided it was worth a read whether chosen as July's book or not. Considering it has topped The New York Times Fiction Best Sellers of 2019 and 2020, it is fair to conclude I had very high hopes for this novel and was eager to get my nose stuck in.


Plot

Set in the isolated marsh land of North Carolina, the book follows two separate timelines throughout that gradually become intertwined and connected as the book progresses. The first is set between 1952-1969 and follows the life of a young girl named Kya as she grows up within the marsh land, segregated from society. The second timeline takes places in 1969 following the murder case of a local, charming man, Chase Andrews, which slowly unfolds into quite the murder mystery enquiry. Initially, I was surprised to discover that this book was set many decades ago and within such an unusual environment, however this only further added to the individuality of the novel. Personally, I have never read anything remotely similar to the plot encapsulated in Where the Crawdads Sing. The lifestyles of those living amongst the marsh in stark contrast to those within town is intriguing and somewhat inspiring, as well as the exquisite, captivating explanations of nature providing an even more engrossing experience for the reader.


Distinguishing between the two timelines is easily done with separate chapters given, meaning the plot is followed without issue. Additionally, use of the two different perspectives adds to the tension and anticipation evoked from the murder mystery element of the book. The plot allows the reader to become somewhat invested in Kya's life, constantly wanting to find out what happens to her next and how she may overcome her next hurdle. At no point did I find the plot predictable or dull since, even when the story line lacked excitement, the excellent writing style kept my engagement high. In terms of the murder mystery element, constant twists and turns were used to keep the plot intriguing, meaning I was guessing the ending right until basically the last page.


In all honesty, I have read books with a more gripping narrative and I was confused towards the beginning on how the plot would pan out, but by the end I knew I had thoroughly enjoyed the entire book and had found myself desperate to keep reading more. Finally, one point worth noting, I loved how the very ending of the book spanned the rest of Kya's life and informed the reader on all the events to follow. Considering the attachment felt for the protagonist, Owens did an excellent job of tying it all together and letting you feel complete closure at the end of the book. Often, especially with Thriller novels, I find myself still with questions whizzing around in my head, however this was not the case when ending Where the Crawdads Sing.


Characters

As mentioned, throughout the book I felt extremely invested in the main character, Kya. Her life in the marsh land is unbelievably interesting and her connection with nature is beautifully extraordinary. At the beginning of the book you learn of Kya's background and the hardships she has faced, leading her to the life she now has. This further intensifies the connection felt and I found myself continually rooting for her in every scenario given. None of her family members are portrayed particularly pleasantly in the book, having limited pages dedicated to their existence. Additionally there are numerous townsfolk who play minor roles throughout but not enough to form any solid opinions. Jumpin' and Mabel are a local couple who take the role of looking out for Kya, providing her with necessities and fuel for her boat. Their connection to Kya is heartwarming for the reader, evoking positive feelings for both characters.


Tate, a local boy who admires of Kya and her unusual ways, is another character I felt strongly for. Yet, Owens sends mixed signals throughout the novel causing perceptions to alter and shift. I enjoyed this multidimensional nature of some characters, since it thickened the plot and provided some deeper story lines to form. Similarly, Chase Andrews, found murdered in 1969, was conveyed in different ways as the story progresses. Although I felt much less strongly connected with his character than Tate, perhaps his ongoing murder trial played some part in that. Overall, the characters in the book were very interesting, dynamic and extremely well considered by Owens making for a fascinating, enjoyable read.


Writing style

Incredible. For me, the writing style is what sets this book apart from the rest. The intricate, descriptive language is beautifully chosen, creating an almost poetic flow to the majority of the book and allowing the reader to feel submerged in the surroundings. As a nature lover myself, the prose describing the marsh lands was divine and made me feel desperate to experience the beauty being portrayed. Initially, I was sceptical on whether the writing style would suit me due to the intense description and unconventional speech that used dialect and slang I found difficult to get to grips with. However, I was completely wrong. Quickly, the unfamiliar speech became unnoticeable and I fell in love with the way Owen's expressed every detail with real care. It definitely made the novel more of an immersive experience than simply reading words printed on paper, providing that sense of escapism all books should. If you are a lover of quality, detailed writing and enjoy appreciating written language, I cannot recommend Owen's work in Where the Crawdads Sing enough.


Three words to describe this book

Beautiful, distinctive and elaborate.


Final comments

I would highly recommend this fiction novel to anyone. Initially, I believed this book would only suit an acquired taste due to the expressive descriptions and unique story line. However, whilst this may still be somewhat my view, I do believe any one can appreciate the excellent writing and interesting, captivating plot that unfolds. As previously mentioned, I have without a doubt read novels with a more gripping, 'page-turning' plot and if thrillers are your one true love then you may not be entirely engrossed by this book. Nevertheless, I found the book thoroughly enjoyable, inspiring and encapsulating, with an emotional plot to accompany some intriguing characters. Furthering my previous point, Owen's provides a real sense of escapism in this novel since the language provides an abundance of food for the imagination. Surroundings are described in such a way you feel placed within them, watching the narrative unfold around you. Personally, a limited number of books have ever provided that effect for me, allowing hours to pass in what feels like minutes. Therefore, I would label Where the Crawdads Sing an absolute must read as a novel to be appreciated and I entirely understand the abundance of international praise Owen's work has received.


Have you read this book? If so, let me know your thoughts, or other recommendations, in the comments below!

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