where the crawdads sing

4.5 stars

A beautiful coming of age/murder mystery that you won’t want to put down.

I knew there was a lot of hype about this book before I picked it up, so I went into it with low expectations. I’ve often found most books don’t live up to the hype. Happily, that was not the case here. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and highly recommend you read it.

The story focuses on a young girl named Kya. At the beginning of the book in 1952 she’s 6 years old and living with her family in a shack in the marshes outside a small town on the coast of North Carolina. One day Kya’s mother packs a bag and walks down the dirt lane, never to return. Kya and her siblings are left at the mercy of their drunken, violent father. Soon after her mother leaves, the rest of Kya’s family slowly drifts away, leaving her completely alone. Luckily Kya is smart and resourceful. With the help and charity of Jumpin’, the owner of the gas and bait shop on the marsh, Kya is able to eek out a meager existence.

Kya avoids school and shuns going into town unless absolutely necessary. She is nicknamed “Marsh Girl” by the town, and young and old alike taunt her. Only one young boy, Tate, reaches out to get to know Kya. As she gets older, Kya begins to yearn for more human contact. She gets close to two young men from town, but her inability to handle being around other people creates challenges in the relationships. When tragedy strikes, Kya finds herself in the center of it. As the book moves back and forth through time, the story of Kya’s life, and the investigation into the murder of a hometown hero, intertwines until the thrilling conclusion.

The story is intriguing, the characters are well-formed and interesting, and the writing is beautiful. I especially liked learning about animal behavior and the marsh ecosystem. It was intriguing, and I learned quite a bit. The author has a light touch when discussing these scientific issues, so it never felt like I was reading a stodgy, boring text book. Clearly her background as a wildlife scientist aided her ability to simplify these concepts and weave them into the story. I felt like I was experiencing the beautiful scenery with the characters. It’s no wonder Kya loved the area and did not want to leave.

This was our August book club selection, and it was a great pick. I can’t say enough good things about this book and think you should go out and read it already! 🙂