Where the Crawdads Sing Novel Review

Where the Crawdads Sing Review By Anantha Alagappan
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Anantha Alagappan

Pune, 21st August 2021: Where the Crawdads Sing is a brilliant ode to the Marshes of North Carolina around the city of Ashville.

The coastal Marshlands of North Carolina are not just the backdrop to this novel but take the center stage. The lands are remote, wild filled with different species of winged birds, including the gulls and the herons. Where the land meets the water, the grass shines and stretches towards the sky, branching into lagoons, creeks and channels on one side and meeting the sea on the other.

The story revolves around a marsh girl “Kya”, whose battle for survival starts when she turns six. She lives in a shack on a marsh near the quiet town Barkley Cove on the North Carolina Coastal line. Domestic abuse in the house forces her mother, and later her siblings to leave the shack leaving Kya alone with her abusive father at the tender age of 6. After few days of feeble sunshine, things get gloomy when her drunkard father also abandons her at the age of ten.

Kya battles her loneliness and puts up a brave face when confronted with adversity. She grows up to be a beautiful maiden, men begin to take advantage of her. Scorned, humiliated and rejected by the town folks as the Marsh Girl, she is determined to make her identity in this world, which she eventually does, magnificently.

But troubles don’t seem to leave Kya when she gets caught up in a murder mystery. Everyone in the town suspects Kya and she has to face criticism and rejection, yet again, despite being an accomplished naturalist and an author.

The story itself is narrated between two timelines, one intertwining with the another somewhere towards the end of the book. The first timeline primarily is centred around Kya’s childhood, her adolescence and the unexpected troubles each phase brings in her life. Having no one to properly guide her through her life stages, Kya embraces the wild. When confronted with civilization, she winces. 

She becomes an integral part of the ecosystem, both a predator and prey. She is wild, yet pure. She yearns for love and comfort which she never gets from anyone. Time and again, she finds herself forsaken and used as a piece of trash. Having lost faith in humans, she turns to nature for help. Mother Nature takes her into her arms and shapes her like any other living creature who grows in her realm.

Kya learns to read and write and begins her research on all the biological creatures which live in the Marsh. Her understanding of life is in communion with the life cycles of the insects and the birds which live in the Marshes.

The second timeline is centred around the murder mystery of a handsome youth in Barkley Cove, Chase Andrews. The town folks start suspecting Kya for the murder of Chase Andrews and the prosecution gathers witnesses and evidence to substantiate her involvement. Kya faces an almost impossible challenge to convince the jury otherwise. Her struggle for survival and her resilience is commendable. 

It took me a while to understand the setting, I was visualizing the backwaters of Kerala and Goa for a while, but I still struggled to get a clear picture of the marsh in my head. I have never read a more vivid and beautiful description of a marsh before. By the end of the book, my head was filled with the inhabitants of the marsh, the birds, the shells and the different fauna which grows there. I understood the difference between a marsh and a swamp, how a lagoon opens up to a beach and how a beach narrows to a tunnel and how it opens up to the sea.

This book is a brilliant piece of fiction. It is poetic, beautifully written. Survival stories are my favorite, and I am fortunate to read this story of the Marsh girl and her struggle against loneliness. This is a special book, and I am looking forward for the movie, which is supposed to be produced by Reese Witherspoon. I am looking forward to see Kya but more than that, the marsh.

(Anantha Alagappan is an IT Professional. Writing is her passion. She writes short stories, book reviews, movie reviews, small stories for children and play scripts for the theatre. She regularly conducts storytelling workshops for children. Check out Anantha’s other review here.)