“Marsh is not swamp. Marsh is a space of light, where grass grows in water, and water flows into the sky. Slow-moving creeks wander, carrying the orb of the sun with them to the sea, and long-legged birds lift with unexpected grace -as though built to fly-against the roar of a thousand snow geese.”
5 “its own unique genre” stars
This story is a story of savage beauty, of cruel destiny for a little girl faced with countless rejection and immense solitude. This is a story of survival. Of deep love for a wild land. Of yearning for acceptance and love. This is a story of courage, strength, brutality and hope.
This is a unique story.
Here is the thing with reviews: the more I love a book and the more the book is unique, beautifully written, the more I feel totally inadequate, lacking to write a review.
When I have just read beautiful words, been swept off my feet to be drawn into the author’s worlds, into her story it is really difficult to get my bearing and organize my thoughts to produce an intelligent and articulate review.
This is exactly what happened with Where the Crawdads Sings.
I am now pondering how to give this book justice as I don’t own one ounce of Delia Owen’s talent.
Well I will go with my feelings, thoughts and reactions while reading this extraordinary story.
I loved reading every word because it is a story describing the beauty of an overlooked land: the marsh. I felt the salt of the sea on my lips, the caress of the wind in my hair, I heard the cries of the gulls. I was mesmerized by all the colors in the bird’s feathers and never imagined grass had flowers. Every living creature, animal, shells, plants was painted in bright light. Never would have I thought that shells were as varied and interesting.
I love it when a book is like looking at the universe with magnifying glasses. You discover how the world is full of life and how even the plainest creature is gorgeous and hides surprising beauty.
Delia Owens simply made me fall in love with the marsh, this forgotten, wild and rude piece of land.
The story itself may seem simple yet cruel. A poor family living in a shack without running water or electricity, at the fringe of civilization, on the marsh. The day the mother leaves after years of abuse is the last day of that family. One by one every kid will leave to have a better life elsewhere, leaving only Kya barely six years old with her drunk of a father.
Can you imagine that little girl, waiting on her porch or at the end of the lane or later on the beach, every day of her life. Because her mother had to come back for her right? And her favorite brother would come back too right? And I have to clean up the shack, try to cook so that mommy will be welcomed when she comes back…
“Surely Ma would come back for her birthday, so the morning after the harvest moon she put on the calico dress and stared down the lane. Kya willed Ma to be walking toward the shack, still in her alligator shoes and long skirt.”
Do you see this small girl trying to cook biscuit but doing a poor job because she is only six years old and she is trying to be the mom of the family? Can you picture this small girl in ratty clothes, looking at her feet, scurrying along the street of the small village to get some food with some coins her dad gave her? She can’t count and has no notion of how to give proper change. Why is the lady at the grocery shop asking all these questions about her mom? She can’t tell anything or people will come and place her in a foster home. She has to stay. For mom. When she’ll be back.
And the day her dad did not come back, leaving her all alone at ten years old in that isolated shack…
How will she buy foods? How will she have money?
Everyone is leaving her.
Why is everyone leaving her?
What has she done?
Isn’t she enough?
I can’t tell you the sheer isolation that small girl was in. Nearly every villager shunned her.
Honey don’t go near “The Marsh Girl” she is trash! Come back to mommy. Don’t look her way don’t you see she is dirty?
“But just as her collection grew, so did her loneliness. A pain as large as her heart lived in her chest. Nothing eased it. Not the gulls, not a splendid sunset, not the rarest of shells.
The lonely became larger than she could hold. She wished for someone’s voice, presence, touch, but wished more to protect her heart.”
I was bleeding for Kya. I cried for this small girl that everyone left behind and had to fend for herself. Who was so frightened, alone yet smart that she survived. All these years alone with the birds. She survived. She did the unthinkable.
Thanks to three people who helped her as they could. Ta her only friend. Older. Who taught her to read, who broke her loneliness …for a time.
Jumpin and his wife Mabel who bought her mussels and gave her the essential to live, some clothes from their church…
I was also angry. So angry with all these villagers rejecting that small girl. How could people be so mean to a kid?
Then … I thought once again of my own reaction when I cross some beggar kids on the street. I think they are dirty and used by their parents to draw sympathy. Am I better than these villagers really? It is not a glorious day when you are forced to face your flaws in in all honesty admit that maybe you are a little like them. Would I shun a kid, leave him or her all alone to fend for herself in the wild? I dare to hope that no I wouldn’t be that person. Yet that does not make me a saint when I think about my own reaction to these poor kids. And so is one of the reasons why I love: to better myself, to open my eyes.
But the story is not as simple as it seems. There is more than following this small girl, rejected by everyone accomplishing the unthinkable.
There is a murder.
Chase Andrews is found dead below the old fire tower. The sheriff is convinced he’s been murdered. But who did this? We will follow the investigation all along, wondering what was linking Chase to Kya.
Step by step, clue after clue, Delia Owens weaves the tapestry of Kia’s life and of Chase ‘s death.
As I said earlier this is a story of courage, strength, brutality and hope. It is a land singing its beauty to who can truly ear and see. I would recommend this unique story to everyone looking for something just beautiful.
Have you read it? Or any similar story?
Thanks for reading!