Is there any book within the last 3 years that has spent as much time on the NY Times bestseller list as Where The Crawdads Sing? Every time I’ve checked the list recently, Where The Crawdads sing is high up on it, even though it was published 2 years ago in 2018. A book this popular and beloved definitely piques the interest, so now I have finally taken the time to read and review it.
Where The Crawdads Sing is the story of Kya, a woman who has survived alone for most of her life in the North Carolina marsh.
Before you read further: I did not like this book, but I am in the minority of readers here. All of my library coworkers who read this book loved it.
Mild spoilers ahead.
What Where The Crawdads Sing gets right: This is a book about a central character, Kya, and her growth and development as a lonely, intelligent, nature-loving woman. After years of abuse and neglect from her family, Kya learns how to survive alone in the marsh without much help or compassion from the nearby townspeople. She is a sympathetic character that just makes you wonder: what were all of the adults doing in this town, letting a child fend for herself in the wilderness? Why didn’t anyone try harder to help? She does have some help from Jumpin’ and his wife, but I understand that their help had to be limited as they faced discrimination and racism. So where were the other people, who had nothing to worry about by helping an impoverished, abandoned child?
What Where The Crawdads Sing gets wrong: I hated the grammar and writing style in this book. There are tons of sentences that are technically run-ons; most of them are like this:
Pa’s overalls were so heavy wet she couldn’t wring them out with her tiny hands, and couldn’t reach the line to hang them, so draped them sopping over the palmetto fronds at the edge of the woods.
By late afternoon she was very hungry, so went back to the shack.
It should be “so she draped them” and “so she went back to the shack.” Otherwise it’s a run-on that’s confusing to read. There’s also a sentence that refers to the Andrews family as the “Andrewses.” It made me physically cringe. Delia Owens continues with this kind of writing throughout the book, and honestly it drove me crazy. I understand that maybe she was trying to make her writing voice similar to that of Kya, but it just didn’t click.
And one last thing: the romances, if you can call them that, fell very, very flat. The men that Kya gets involved with treat her terribly. I would have loved to see Kya developing other relationships- like friendships- instead of these toxic ones.
Who should read Where The Crawdads Sing: Readers who enjoy historical fiction and nature writing, and who can overlook the inconsistent writing and dialogue.
Who shouldn’t Where The Crawdads Sing: Readers who want believable dialogue and character development. Readers who are also editors and will be itching to edit this book (that’s me).
Content note: language, brief suggestive scenes, racism and sexism that was typical of the sixties
Reviews written by Olivia Chin reflect her personal opinions and not necessarily those of the library or university.