When I was choosing books for the 2019 Everyday Reading Book Club, I decided to include a few this year that I hadn’t yet read but wanted to, and top of that list was Where the Crawdads Sing.
Since it came out in August 2018, it’s been a runaway bestseller.
Reese Witherspoon picked it for her bookclub just as it was released and that sent it onto the New York Times bestseller list, where it rose steadily until to number one (it’s now been on the list for 30 weeks).
It was Delia Owens’ debut novel and . . . she’s got to be feeling pretttttty good about life.
I went into this book knowing literally nothing about it. I downloaded it last month from Audible and started listening as I drove to and from the gym in the morning.
I have to admit, it took me a LONG time to get into it (like three or four hours of listening long). Because of the incredible hype of this book, I assumed it would just suck me in.
I think knowing a little more about the storyline would have helped me too (some books are better read knowing almost nothing about the story – for me, Where the Crawdads Sing, is not one of these stories).
where the crawdads sing by delia owens
The book has two storylines, both taking place in Barkley Cove, a fictional small town on the coast of North Carolina.
One begins in 1969 where two local boys, riding their bike, find Chase Andrews, former high school quarterback and part of a prominent family in the town, dead floating in the water under the fire tower.
The sheriff isn’t sure what to make of this death. It seems unlikely that athletic, capable Chase would have fallen off the fire tower, but there are also no indications of foul play – no footprints, no murder weapon, not even a fingerprint (which, on its own, is suspicious).
The other story line begins in the 1950s, following a little girl named Kya Clark who lives in the marshes outside of town with her family. Considered “swamp trash” by most of Barkley Cove, her family is deeply unstable, thanks to her violent and alcoholic father. Shortly after the book opens, Kya’s mother leaves along with all her siblings, leaving her alone with her father.
And then, he disappears as well, leaving Kya to fend for herself in the marsh, learning to rely on only herself for survival.
Naturally, those two storylines are going to intertwine at some point.
When I was on Anne Bogel’s podcast a couple of years ago, I mentioned that I am always wary of books that claim “beautiful writing” because in my experience that is code for “slow read.”
And Where the Crawdads Sing didn’t do much to change that opinion – it’s a beautifully written book and. . . it takes a long time for anything to really happen (especially in Kya’s storyline).
But once I finally got into it, I was really interested to see how it was going to play out and the hours of our drive back from our spring break trip flew by as I listened to the last couple of hours.
It’s an interesting mix of a coming-of-age story, mixed with a murder mystery, and a love letter to nature (I noted earlier that this was her debut novel – Delia Owens has written a few other non-fiction nature books about Africa). Those aren’t genres I would normally combine, but she makes it work.
This book feels like the perfect lazy end-of-summer kind of read, where you’re in no hurry, and have plenty of time to soak up the storytelling and ambiance of this book.
Did I love it? I’d say I liked it. I liked it quite a bit. But I don’t feel like I have the intense love for it that so many other readers seem to have.
Although to be fair, I’ve thought about it pretty much non-stop since I finished it.
And will I see the movie when it comes out (Reese Witherspoon is producing it)? You BET.
I think it will be stunning as a movie, since the book has so much ambiance and listening to the Audible version felt like watching a movie in my head.
Have you read it? I’d love to know what you thought!
(By the way, after I finished Where the Crawdads Sing, I told Bart that I’d gotten tons of messages saying how surprised they were by the ending. I started telling him the storyline and he guessed the ending straight away. Guessing endings before they happen is basically his secret superpower)
I did really love this one….but, I went in with zero expectations because I had an ARC of it and it wasn’t being hyped everywhere. I also read it and didn’t listen to it….I’m wondering if you would have enjoyed it more if you had read it and not had been able to skim over some of the “beautiful writing.”
We read this for my book club a few months ago. I felt like it was ok. The poetry annoyed me, honestly. Some parts of the story bugged me. I don’t know how I wanted it to end but I didn’t love the ending. It was slow. But enjoyable. I don’t regret reading it. I kind of hate the celebrity book clubs for this reason. A book one person liked gets a whole bunch of hype. Not everyone reads the same stuff as Reese or Oprah.
Melissa L. says
I would love to listen to this on Audible! I have not gotten a membership yet as I am not sure how much I will enjoy it. But, I would love some books to listen to on my commute back and forth (2 plus hours a day). If you want to share your free copy, that would be amazing and I would appreciate it. This is a book I have been wanting to get into.
Janssen Bradshaw says
Try a free Scribd membership – it has Where the Crawdads Sing available with no wait! https://www.scribd.com/g/5h9w7c
Melissa L. says
Awesome, I just saw this on your IG stories and I am going to! Thanks so much!
Alpa Goel says
I agree with almost everything you said in this review. The book had such a slow start! It took me a long time to get into it. The writing was a little too descriptive for me. I was so tempted to not finish but with all the hype, I was curious. Having said all that, in the end, I did like it and will definitely watch the movie.
I can’t put my finger on why, but I have this resistance to Southern Fiction. I’m not sure if that is how this book is categorized, but that’s how I’ve categorized it in my mind, so despite all of the amazing reviews, I just haven’t been interested. Hearing that it’s a slow read doesn’t do anything to change my mind; my last several reads have been slow and I’m ready for something that will immediately engross me.
I did NOT like this book! It sounded so good, and I actually really liked the beginning. It wasn’t until I was maybe 1/3 of the way in that it started to bother me. I felt like the plot became very unrealistic–I don’t think a girl that grew up so isolated and neglected would be able to grow up and do what Kya did professionally. Her relationship bothered me, too–it also did not seem realistic and seemed to have too much of a big brother/little sister vibe to it. I felt like the book kept shifting categories–coming of age, survival, court trial, mystery, romance–and they didn’t flow together. It seemed to just keep changing genres. I really disliked the ending, too.
I don’t normally dislike a book so much! So interesting to read other people’s comments and hear their thoughts.
I am right there with you Kate! This book was so unrealistic it was ridiculous at times to me. It’s fascinating to me the varying view points on this book. There are some beautiful descriptions about nature for sure. And I did read it to the very end out of curiosity.
How plausible is it for someone to be completely illiterate and just a few short years later be the author of a bestselling college level academic book?
The ending??? It’s almost comical, it’s so outlandish. I also felt the voice on the audible version did not mature with the age of the character – which I think had a big impact for me. I realized the tremendous influence the narrator can have on the reader.
I liked this book a lot but agree with you about it being slow. I guessed the ending but I was very interested to see if happened as I guess. I also listened to it on Audible- my first credit use! I loved listening to it too!
Torrie @ To Love and To Learn says
I just finished this one and reviewed it on my blog, too! I actually don’t mind a slow burn and I’m a bit of a snob when it comes to writing style (my tastes definitely skew more “literary”), so this one was right up my alley. I cannot WAIT to see what Delia Owens comes out with next! (And I had no idea this was being made into a movie, so I’ll be super curious to see that as well!)
The only thing that knocked this down for me was the ending. I wasn’t surprised by it, but I was a little underwhelmed by it. I guess I wanted a different outcome. But the rest of the novel was strong enough and fabulous enough that it still got a solid 4.5 stars from me!
Karen Fairchild says
I was given a signed copy as a gift. I read this right after I finished The Great Alone and both had a very similar feel to me. I loved both books.
I felt this was beautifully written and although a bit slow initially, I was completely immersed. It has stuck with me and it has made it to My Favorites list for sure.
I have been reading like crazy since, but nothing has measured up to this for me! On a continuous search 🙂
Just finished it today, and really enjoyed it. Totally agree about it being slow in the beginning. I had a really hard time getting into it. I think the chapters where they were investigating the murder initially sucked me in and helped me to keep reading, but then I found myself really enjoying Kya’s chapters too. Eventually, I couldn’t put it down and just had to find out what happened. The ending surprised me and didn’t at the same time. It has me just wanting to talk to someone about it now! Would definitely recommend it! Not one of my favorites, but still a great read.