On Monday 15th November, the Books and Bakes Book Club came together to discuss the final book for 2021, “Where the Crawdads Sing” by Delia Owen, which is a book written in two parts and one which jumps back and forth in the timeline to bring together the tough and heart-wrenching life experience of the lead character, Kya, also known as ‘Swamp Girl’ by the locals and centres around the unexplained death of Chase Andrews, a popular and handsome young man from the local town. Warning – what follows contains spoilers!

PICTURE: Cover image of Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owen

Kya Clark had a tough start to life. Growing up in the marshes of a North Carolina swamp, abandoned by her mother, her siblings and then, later, her abusive father, Kya has no choice but to use her immense knowledge of local nature to raise herself on the land she knows and loves. As she grows up, she grows fond of two young men, Tate and Chase, entering into relationships that bring a range of challenges for Kya.

The group found the book very emotive. For some it was a difficult read with some members not finishing the book before the discussion group, while others quite enjoyed the book overall even if they struggled with the disjointed reading of the frequent timeline changes. The descriptions offered to the reader were really atmospheric and helped to set the scene

Members found the act of abandonment from both parents difficult to read, with one member commenting that mothers are not meant to leave their children and it really conflicted with her personal feelings, beliefs and experiences. Although it was recognised that the father’s temper was unacceptable, the thought of a mother leaving her children with an abusive father, regardless of the reasoning, wasn’t something the group could accept.

Kya developed coping strategies and techniques to escape from the school and social services, having spent only one single day at an educational establishment before choosing not to return due to bullying. The group felt she was let down by the local professional support services but it could well have been true to the era it is set in. They also felt that the fact that by the end of the book, Kya had published books and poetry a little far fetched given her lack of formal education.

The murder mystery element of the story was seemingly well written as the group all had differing opinions about whodunnit. Any number of the main characters stood accused by the group, with one even suggesting that Kya’s father might have come back to defend her honour, or even her brother! It was felt that Kya couldn’t have been guilty of murder because she had an intelligence and innocence about her.

There was some confusion over what a crawdad actually was. One member felt it was the noise of crows but it was, in fact, a fresh water cray fish and the title refers to noise that they make through their scaphognathite, which is a thin appendage that draws water through the gill cavity.

One member noticed that on page 251 the author changed the use of tense from past to present tense for just 3 paragraphs which she felt was in reference to Kya acknowledging her own feelings and sensuality at that moment in time.

The characters people felt they could relate to were Mable because of her generous and caring nature, Tate was felt to be very real particularly in his cowardice yet lifelong friendship.

The group found the abandonment of Kya and the bullying she experienced, even from older people in the community who should know better, was difficult throughout and felt that they would have done things differently.

It was felt that the ending of the story was a little bit magical but that the poverty and prejudice experienced felt very real.

The most pivotal moment in the book was the murder of Chase and Kya’s innocent verdict in the court, which made some readers cry. While the ending was well written and didn’t leave the group wanting more, they were satisfied with the way that it ended even though one group member felt the ending was particularly weak.

Have you read Where The Crawdads Sing? What did you think of the book? Share your thoughts.

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3 Comments

Joyce Beadnall · November 28, 2021 at 9:13 pm

I first read ‘Where the Crawdads Sing’ about 6 months ago, and found aspects of the story quite troubling: Kay’s abandonment by her mother, her siblings, her father, and finally Tate. The very idea that such a young child could be left to struggle to feed herself was very

Surprisingly I enjoyed it more during a second reading- perhaps because I was focussing more on the writing style and why the author chose such language, especially to indicate Kya’s state of mind or insight into her personality.
Delia very skilfully introduced actions and thoughts of her characters throughout the book, so that the identity of the murder was still an intriguing mystery. I wish I knew who did it!

Lynne Amos · November 28, 2021 at 9:37 pm

Once again our book of the month sparked a lot of reactions. The strongest emotion for me was actually being upset. To think a young child could be abandoned as Kya was, especially when there’s a strong possibility that these sort of things would have happened in the past, is quite heart wrenching.
I found part one quite a tough read and didn’t really like the way the timeline kept flitting backwards and forwards.
However later in part two you realise all of that was necessary to tie everything together.
We all had lots of comments about this book and I for one did enjoy it, even though I may not have picked it just by a quick look at it on a shelf

Kathryn Hoey · November 30, 2021 at 12:37 pm

When I started reading ‘Where the Crawdads Sing’, I found the vocabulary and dialect barriers – I had to stop reading to find out the meanings of these unfamiliar words.
I didn’t enjoy reading part 1 at all. The story kept jumping backwards and forwards, the vocabulary and dialogue made it hard to understand and the storyline was disjointed. I found the fact that Kya, the main character, being abandoned at such a young age, very distressing.
Part 2 held my interest more as the events moved on and I found parts of it very emotional. The fact that Kya was a reclusive young girl, abandoned by her parents, siblings, and the entire town at the moment of great need was hard to read. She was judged, ridiculed, and bullied.
The twist at the end of the book, when we as readers, find out that Kya was a murderer and also a poet that throughout the story Kya quoted lines from, was quite a surprise and also a bit of a let down. It made me question whether Kya would be capable of murder. She was very intelligent but there was an innocence about her, because of how she’d been forced to live alone, surviving day by day. Or was it a case of ‘hell hath no fury than a woman scorned’? I’m still not sure.

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