Where the Crawdads Sing (2018): Delia Owens


Way out on the marshes, where the water meets the sky, a young girl grows to womanhood alone. Kya Clark has grown used to people abandoning her: first her mother left, then her beloved brother Jodie, and finally her abusive, drunken father failed to come home. It seems safer to place her trust in nature, which lives by simple rules without the duplicity of mankind. The family’s ramshackle home lies only a few miles from the little town of Barkley Cove on the North Carolina coast, but Kya might as well inhabit another world. Everyone in town knows that the marsh-dwellers are outcasts, law-breakers and thieves. When the body of popular local boy Chase Andrews is found broken and battered beneath the old fire tower just outside town in August 1969, people are quick to seek a scapegoat. And who better than the half-wild Marsh Girl? Delia Owen’s haunting novel was this month’s Book Club pick and my favourite so far (a relief, since I suggested it). It’s a paean to nature in all its rich variety, written in poetic cadences infused with Southern rhythms, and with a heroine who shatters all the stereotypes of the ‘outcast’. It’s the perfect novel for a time when, confined to homes and gardens, we finally have time to savour the natural world around us.

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