I’m ever careful about seeing reviews prior to reading a novel. I might scan them, looking at ratings (particularly from friends) but if I see something that could be a spoiler I look away. While reading Where the Crawdads Sing I saw a review that said “…can we talk about the ending?” Agh, I thought. What does that mean? Am I going to be unhappy with it? But I pushed those thoughts aside and now I’m here to tell you that the ending seemed very much in keeping with the story and I accepted it fully. I will give you no clues. But, hey, there are always going to be people who wished a book ended differently.
There are some beautiful characters in this book. Kya, the main protagonist—and Marsh Girl, is a compelling character. She’s got heart, pride, she likes people, even if she sometimes turns away from them, and though she falters, in the end, she does manage to keep the connection to others through terrible odds. Her relationship to nature is awesome. Kya may have had more than her fair share of difficult and tragedy but what an amazing person. What a story Owens gave to her in this book! So many times I was rooting for her and sharing in her achievements (e.g. learning to read – which opened up more of the world to her, publishing books).
As a second main protagonist, Owens presented to us nature herself and I loved it. Glorious, strange, even nasty, Owens wove the environment from the animals to the water, the grasses and other plants, throughout this novel and it was part of the joy. The book even got me out planting the garden after pushing aside that job week after week for about two months! I’m not that outdoorsy.
There are secondary characters who are also wonderful. Jumpin’ and Mabel, an older couple who help Kya after her family leave the marsh one by one, leaving her, a child, to fend for herself. They are both perceptive, kindhearted and thoughtful, taking into account Kya’s needs but likewise her wants, though she is still a young person on whom they could have imposed what they thought best (and keep in mind it was the mid 1900s).
Tate and Kay’s brother, Jodie, have their moments (they are human after all) but come (or come back) to have meaning in Kya’s life. Tate, gave Kya two of her greatest gifts in life – reading and love.
There were antagonists, yes. But I’ll leave you to find out about them for yourself.
Where the Crawdads Sing felt epic at times, spanning about twenty years of Kya’s life, and was full of beauty and wonder but also tragedy and pain…seems I’m a sucker for books like that. I highly recommend it.
M. N. Cox