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October 21, 2020

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Icon book review: Where the Crawdads Sing

There is much depth in this book; it's worth the cost of purchasing it rather than waiting for it to come around to you

Review by Robert McCool
The book's title is all the introduction it needs. Anything more would be superfluous.

I waited over a year for this book to become available at my local library. There's a reason for that. It's that much in demand. Rightfully so.

There are books that are so perfect that I feel my ability to comment on them is inadequate to do them justice. “WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING” (Random House, IBSN 978-1-9848-2761-6) by Delia Owens, is such a book, a book about isolation and loneliness.

This is a story of the growing up of a girl who lives in a marsh. It begins in 1952 when Kya (Catherine Clark) is the youngest of five children who live with an abusive father.

In the first case of abandonment  her mother leaves without saying so much as a goodbye when she has had enough of her husband's cruelty. Kya's much older brothers and sisters depart soon after, leaving the girl behind and on her own to deal with her father who drinks moonshine and threatens her very existence.

Longing for a family of any sort she takes over the household's chores and takes care of her miserable father. Until one day he disappears too, leaving her alone but waiting for his reappearance that never happens, and on her own she makes a life in the marsh collecting shells, feathers, and plants. She is nine years old.

She spends one day in school but is made fun of because she is too poor to even wear decent clothes or any shoes. She doesn't return. However, on her own she learns about the natural world in all its forms. Still, she is isolated and lonely. She can't even read.

Her only family is an old black man, Jumpin', and his wife Mable, as they take care of her in any way they can. When Jumpin' eventually dies later in the book she is without a family once again.

Her loneliness draws her to a boy she meets one day she's out on her boat, a boy who shows her the way home, as she had become lost. Tate Walker then extends the hand of friendship. He even teaches her to read and helps her collect marsh items like feathers and shells. Her world is not so lonely anymore.

Second story in the plot
The second story in the plot is a mystery concerning a death, the death of the town's golden boy from falling, or being pushed, off of a fire tower. This storyline takes place in 1969. Sheriff Ed Jackson investigates the death of Chase Andrews as a murder. This part of the book is inserted into Kya's story, with chapters occurring throughout the book.

Kya falls deeply in love with Tate, and her affection is returned in a respectful relationship. That is, until Tate goes away to college. He didn't return to her for the whole time he was in school. She is abandoned again.

Then Chase finds her and extends the hand of friendship, which she accepts and believes is a form of love. Chase spends time with her and his fancy boat, all the time searching for something more from Kya. He seeks to have sex with her, totally on the sly from his regular friends. The two of them do have sex, but it isn't fulfilling for Kya. Then she reads in the newspaper that he is engaged to one of his adoring girlfriends.

This hurts. And she is abandoned again.

Abandoned again
Meanwhile she has drawn and painted her shells and birds and even mushrooms. As he promised before he left for college, Tate has submitted her work to a publishing company, and they sign a contract with her to publish her work. Her books sell, and she collects the royalties, dirt poor no more. She continues to write and illustrate for the rest of he life.

Then Chase attempts to rape her, but is left injured by a well-aimed kick. This doesn't stop Chase from hunting Kya, so she hides in an old cabin where she used to go and study the textbooks Tate brought her. Chase wants revenge. She is on her own again, hiding from the town's rich golden boy.

This sheriff's search into Chase's death considers Kya to be a suspect, and he hunts for whatever incriminating clues he can find to prove she killed Chase.

Tate returns, and professes his love for Kya. She is understandably wary of him, but extends a trial friendship. Also, the sheriff arrests Kya and takes her to trial for murder. It remains a mystery as to who could have performed the fatal act.

In the end this book has the most satisfying conclusion I've ever read. Kya and Tate rekindle their love of each other and the marsh they live in.

There is so much more depth in this book than I'm unable to convey, and it's worth the cost of purchasing it rather than waiting for it to come around to you. Buy this book, it's sure to remain on your reading list for a long time.