Where the Crawdads Sing (2018)

by Delia Owens

Where the Crawdads Sing is the first novel of a wildlife scientist lauded for her nature writing. In it Delia Owens continues her keen observation of the plant and animal worlds.

Kya, the protagonist, grows up alone in the North Carolina marshland, having been abandoned by her mother and then her beloved brother and her alcoholic, brutal father. She attends school only one day, refusing to return because she feels humiliated. But she is smart and teaches herself about the nature that surrounds her. 

“The Marsh Girl” is taunted and shunned by the townspeople of Barkley Cove. She is helped only by the Black couple Jumpin’ and Mabel and a young man named Tate who befriends her and teaches her to read. She and Tate fall in love, but Kya feels abandoned again when Tate leaves for college. Another young man, a local celebrity, is also attracted to her, and when he is found dead, Kya is suspected of murder.

Where the Crawdads Sing is a coming-of-age story, a murder mystery, and especially an ode to the natural world. Particularly interesting is Owens’s comparing the behavior Kya observes in birds and animals with that of humans.

Owens previously cowrote three nonfiction books about her life as a wildlife scientist in Africa. Her writing has appeared in Nature, The African Journal of Ecology, and other publications. She has won the John Burroughs Award for Nature Writing.

A film adaption of the much-lauded Where the Crawdads Sing was in the works in 2021.

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