Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens, centers on Kya Clark aka the “Marsh Girl”. The story takes place in the 1940s-1970s in North Carolina in a small town called Barkley Cove. The story opens with the murder of Chase Andrews and then flashes back to our main character, Kya Clark’s childhood. When Kya’s alcoholic and abusive father leads Kya’s mother and siblings to leave, Kya is left alone to live with her irresponsible and unreliable father. Eventually, he leaves too, leaving seven-year-old Kya to manage their home and fend for herself. She befriends Jumpin, the owner of a local fishing shop, with whom she gets to know over the years after establishing a business of selling mussels with him. Kya also gets closer to her brother’s friend, Tate, who teaches Kya to read, and they bond over their shared love of nature on the marsh.
Tate and Kya get closer and eventually become more than friends. They both love and care for each other deeply, but when Tate leaves for college and promises to come back and see her, he doesn’t follow through. Heartbroken, teenage Kya learns to continue being independent and eventually meets Chase Andrews, an ex-football player and well-known man in town. Chase takes an interest in Kya and they eventually start dating. But it is clear that he doesn’t plan on marrying her because she is the “marsh girl” and the town pretty much excludes her. When news of Chase’s engagement to another woman reaches the newspapers, Kya stops meeting him and cuts ties. But he ends up finding her and tries to molest and assault her. Kya defends herself and escapes from the situation.
Tate and Kya reconnect, and although she doesn’t trust Tate with her heart anymore, he still clearly loves her and helps her write and publish her very first book about nature and wildlife on the marsh. One day, Kya leaves town to meet her publisher about her book, and when she comes back, she learns from Jumpin that Chase is dead.
Kya is put on trial and accused of the murder of Chase Andrews. She spends months in jail and testifies in front of the whole town for one of the most talked-about cases Barkley Cove has ever had. Fortunately, she has an excellent lawyer who helps her and she is found not guilty. Kya and Tate end up spending the rest of their lives together at Kya’s home, and they live a long and happy life together.
This story was so well written! I loved how we started with the murder of Chase Andrews in the present day and alternated between the present and past to show how Kya grew up and how she came to be the woman she is today. We really get to see Kya mature as she starts off as a young seven-year-old, abandoned by her entire family and left to fend for herself. She learns to be fiercely independent and to only trust a select few such as Jumpin and Maybel, the owner of the fishing shop, and his wife, from whom Kya gets help and befriends.
I shipped Kya and Tate so hard. It is so sweet to see how they get close, starting from when Tate realizes that Kya is all by herself and helps her learn how to read, and identify different birds, shells, and other beauties of nature on the marsh. Although he leaves for college and doesn’t come to see her until she is already with Chase, he slowly earns her trust back and Kya realizes just how much she loves him too when her older brother Jodi talks some sense into her. It is so sweet to see how their love languages seem to be quality time and gift-giving. I love that we get to see their love and how it grows and matures as they get older.
Also, I love the fact that we don’t know who really killed Chase Andrews and how he actually died until the very end of the book. I was so surprised to find out who it was!
I haven’t seen the movie because I wanted to read the book properly first, but for a gripping story on the life of a fiercely independent girl who learns to take care of herself and establish her footing in the world, I encourage you to read Where the Crawdad Sings!