“Autumn leaves don’t fall; they fly. They take their time and wander on this, their only chance to soar. Reflecting sunlight, they swirled and sailed and fluttered on the wind drafts.”
The book opens in 1969- Chase Andrews is found in the marsh of Barkley Cove, North Carolina, DEAD. Was it an accident or was he murdered?
Flash back to 1952, we meet 6 year old Kya, the youngest of her family, watching her mother walk right out of their shack in the marsh and she never comes back. In the coming weeks, Kya oldest brother and two sisters leave too. Everyone is fleeing the drunken and abusive Pa, and soon Jodie leaves too.
How will a 6 year old girl live like this? When Kya goes to school, she’s made fun of and decides she doesn’t need to go. She is content and peace in the marsh, “the marsh became her mother.” In this alternating narrative, we follow the investigation of Chase’s suspicious death and then return to watch Kya grow up. Briefly her father stops drinking, they seem to be getting along better than Kya ever remembers. But when a letter from Kya’s mother arrives, he soon leaves her too.
“If anyone understood loneliness, the moon would.”
This book surprised me, showing the resilience of the human heart, but also the capacity for compassion. Kya is looked after by Jumpin’ and his wife, Jumpin manages the general store and gas station. They allow Kya her freedom to live on her own, but they make sure she has good and clothing. The kindness and understanding they have with each other was as it should be, not allowing prejudice to interfere, but allowing the love of neighbor as oneself to prevail.
“Life has made her an expert at mashing felts into a storable size.”
Tate, neighbor and friend, teaches Kya, to read and write. His desire to help and protect her are big brotherly, but soon he falls in love with her. I liked him and was so happy Kya was not alone anymore. But when Tate leaves for college, I remember, he’s just a kid too.
In short, this book lived up to the HYPE. I even forced myself to put the book down because I didn’t want it to end. Where the Crawdads Sing is a mixture of many good elements that make for an excellent read. The mystery was good, Kya’s resilience in the face of some challenging circumstances growing up. I wanted the best for Kya and I was relieved to see a few people, do right by her. They helped her but didn’t take away her dignity or self respect. The writing is beautiful and I hope Delia Owens will write more fiction like this.
“Please don’t talk to me about isolation. No one has to tell me how it changes a person. I have lived it. I am isolation.”