Book Review, Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

IMG_20190413_180546296Delia Owens’ debut novel, Where the Crawdads Sing is one of my favorite reads of 2018.

It is a romance, a family saga, a coming of age story, and a murder mystery rolled into one, often poetic, book. Owens writes from a remarkable understanding of nature. A quote from her website reads, “When you can feel the planet beneath your toes and trees moving about, you must listen with all your ears and,–I promise–you will hear the crawdads sing. In fact, it will be a chorus.”

This tells me much about the author and her debut novel. Owens spent over two decades studying wildlife in remote regions of Africa. As a result of this research, she makes the case that mammals in strongly bonded groups form those groups of exclusively females. In Where the Crawdads Sing, Kya is a female without a group and desperately wants one. Owens subtly makes the point that female bonding is in our DNA. Kya is abandoned by her biological mother, siblings and eventually her father. Her mother is the North Carolina marsh and her teachers are the animals that populate the marsh. Kya scrapes out a living and a huge education on the water’s edge, befriending rare and wonderful characters like Jumpin, the general store and gas station owner, and Tate, the young man and friend of Kya’s brother that teaches Kya to read. These people help her in her greatest times of trouble. Throughout the book, the characters are well-drawn and there are good and bad folk in equal measure. The marsh too, becomes a character as well as the town of Barkley Cove.

Not only does the author stay true to the theme of females forming groups but she speaks of predators and prey by Kya’s observation of those animals around her. The murder mystery carries this distinct theme along with many of Kya’s relationships. Kya speaks of the great blue heron as the color of gray mist reflecting in blue water. “And like mist, she can fade into the backdrop, all of her disappearing except the concentric circles of her lock-and-load eyes. She is a patient, solitary hunter, standing alone as long as it takes to snatch her prey.” The paragraph goes on to liken the heron to a predacious bridesmaid. it is chilling and gorgeous prose, speaking to the author’s clear understanding of nature.

Throughout the book, Kya’s understanding of nature and human frailty compelled me. In one passage, Kya can’t remember how to pray. She wants God to help bring back her mother’s garden, she wants God to bring back her mother. She struggles with her memory of prayer and faith and in the end finishes with, “Just forget it. No god’s gonna come to this garden.”

Later, when Kya reads her first sentence, she reads from Leopold’s A Sand Country Almanac, she reads the first telling sentence. “There are some who can live without wild things, and some who cannot.” Her friend tate who teaches her to read says there will never be a time when you can’t read. “It ain’t just that.” She spoke almost in a whisper. “I wadn’t aware that words could hold so much. I didn’t know a sentence could be so full.” I loved the double meaning hers. Kya cannot live without wild things. Kya is a wild thing, a great blue heron disappearing in the mist.

I read one review of this book that said the reader did not find Kya’s life believable and thus could never engage with the main character. I laughed with the reviewer because I too wondered at a young woman so isolated and yet able to make her way on tired grits and very little else. For me, this wasn’t a problem, but a wonder.

I enjoyed learning to survive with Kya, being mothered and taught by the marsh. I enjoyed her first taste of reading and thought back to my own, when black streaks and dots begin to reveal, not just words, but worlds.

If you haven’t read this book yet, I highly recommend it. I read it then re-read it because I hated to finish it.

Thanks for reading, and thanks for reading books. Bev

published in draft form at justonebeggar.net

Locks and Keys

Jumping into the Deep

God’s Good Gifts

Today’s Scriptures : Psalm 103:1-5, Matthew 5:1-2

With today’s blog, I begin a study in the Beatitudes found in the fifth chapter of Matthew.

Jesus gives those who would follow Him the keys to the Kingdom, His Kingdom in the Beatitudes. He tells plainly how to be happy. Jesus calls His disciples and travels to a mount. It is not a fancy mountain with a perfect amphitheater. It is a hill where He can sit and still be heard. Contrast this with the teachers of the law at the time and even Jesus’ other teachings. They taught often from the synagogue. They had amphitheaters or orated from steps. They had chairs that looked like thrones and spoke only to males sometimes men and sometimes boys. But Jesus delivers His message of hope from the side of a rough hill. He delivers it to His disciples and…

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Chewy Has Been Sold

IMG_20190330_192452456Well, I have a gentleman’s agreement on the sale of Chewy and I trust the buyer to tell me if he changes his mind. 

My husband and I may have named the truck Chewy because the old Studebaker sounded like Chewbacca when he headed down the road. I wish I could remember for certain. There are so many things I can no longer remember. Never-mind all of that. Chewy is going to a new home. Chewy will be with a family that likes old things and enjoys restoring them. The home even has young’uns interested in old things.

Lonny bought the truck for me when I started a novel that featured a ’49 Studebaker truck. When Lonny brought it home and I drove it to Mom and Dad’s for the first time, my father put his hands in his pockets and frowned. He shook his head and said, “Studebaker was very good at making wagons. They weren’t very good at much else.”IMG_20190330_192355465

I worried some about what my father thought. I respected him, but pretended I hadn’t heard. I liked Chewy for his blue paint and round top. I liked him because my husband bought him for me to encourage my writing. It was Lonny’s way of saying, “I support you. I may not read what you write, but I’m proud of you.”

We used to have fly-ins. My husband and I built an ultralight (which is a story for another time.) We would host other ultralight owners for a few days of games and feasting. 

 I had driven the Studebaker to work the day of one of these fly-ins. I came home just as the planes started arriving.

Lonny waved as I drove up and parked. His grin was broad, as if it wanted to jump off his face and give me a hug. I heard him telling one of the pilots about the truck.

Later he told me how much he enjoyed seeing me drive around in Chewy, how proud he was and how much delight he knew I took in driving the old blue Studebaker.

I remember that day now and wonder at how people can take joy in another’s pleasure. It touches me to know that Lonny and I truly delighted in each other’s happiness. It touches me that I tried to forget my father’s comments. I am glad that I relaxed and drove the old truck even when my father shook his head and complained.

But Chewy is gone now. It is bittersweet. I knew I would never get him running again and I hope his new owner will. I took down the new owner’s number. Maybe I’ll stay in touch. Maybe I could drive Chewy one more time. Probably not, but life has some strange twists.

Thank you for reading. Bev

(Published also at justonebeggar.net