My Pandemic Reading: ‘Where The Crawdads Sing’ by Delia Owens

I read poetry in anthologies, online or literary mags, in their own books with their own authors. I read everything: essays, short stories, any novel that has a solve, the futurists, physicists and energy scientists of our time- Drs. Fritjof Capra, Candice Pert, Valerie Hunt, Norm Shealy or just a novel to put me to sleep, i.e. drivel.

The plague drove me back to what I think of as real books of the fiction genre, proper literature. First, I read Sebastian Barry’s latest, but there are already reviews of that here as the man has many fans among us on The Blue Nib staff.

I picked up Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens because the title annoyed me, and the book had been on the best seller list for way too many weeks. I am suspicious of The Seller Lists, especially after The Republican National Committee spent one hundred thousand dollars to put Trump Jr’s book on a bestseller list. But I had been wary of lists before, in fairness.

I gave it a go, and lo and behold, a treasure. The list did not lie. I was back in the land of the perfectly written sentence (Sebastian Barry territory), and enthralled by the natural world of a geography I had never visited and am unlikely to get to now, considering the present necessary corralling. 

After a good story well told, and beautifully written sentences, I love a novel that will take me to a place I haven’t been. Crawdads is set in the marshes of North Carolina. This is a girl’s adventure story much in the way Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn is for boys; both books set their hero children on the path to adventure created by dire circumstance. The outcome depends on their creativity, character, and determination to survive. There is a more than a bit of Emerson’s Self-Reliance in both. Twain’s boys never grow up, but Owens’ novel brings Kya through to womanhood, learning sex lessons from lightning bugs, and relationship rules from marshland birds.

Delia Owens is a zoologist, it turns out, with a deep love of the natural world and the North Carolina marsh from her childhood. She has also written three memoirs, Cry of the Kalahari, The Eye of the Elephant, and Secrets of the Savanna. Read it. Where the Crawdads Sing will widen your world view.

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