For years, rumors of the ‘Marsh Girl’ have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl. But Kya is not what they say. Sensitive and intelligent, she has survived for years alone in the marsh that she calls home, finding friends in the gulls and lessons in the sand. Then the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. When two young men from town become intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new life – until the unthinkable happens.
So this was another book club read, a book I wouldn’t normally have read. And that is why groups like Love Books and the Woman and Home book club, amongst others, are so important. They challenge our expectations, tempt us with books that we may not otherwise have picked up.
“Where the Crawdads Sing” took me back to my Masters days studying American literature. Situated in the marshlands of the North Carolina coast this book has a pace that suits our slower ‘locked down’ life. The book is set in the 1960s, a very different type of America to today and yet scarily similar with its prejudice and stereotyping.
The book opens with a map of the marshlands – I love a book that does that! It brings a certain sense of verisimilitude to the action and the reader can visualise where the action is taking place, even imagine themselves in that situation should they wish. The action is set in Kya’s shack, the Gas station where she collects supplies and, on occasion, Barkley Cove the nearest main town. In between these spaces, Kya, the protagonist moves fluidly round and through the marshlands; she is at one with her landscape.
This is a story that looks at mother and father relationships, the treatment of children by not only family but also the State. The legacy of this treatment is brought to bear on how Kya becomes an adult, the relationships she has with other people and how she ends up in front of the authorities at the end of the novel. For me it was an easy read, I enjoyed the ending. Others have raved about this book and said it has been one of their favourite reads. I wouldn’t put it at 5 star as I don’t think it ranks with books like “The Book Thief” that haunt you and stay with you forever but it was well-written, atmospheric and engaging. For me the best part was when Kya set up her Reading Cabin deep within the Marshlands, a sanctuary, a place to hide – now wouldn’t we all like that, a room of one’s own where we have licence only to read and learn?!
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