Happy Thanksgiving from the US of A! I’m in New York City celebrating with my family after a busy few days at work. Big thanks to Emma for taking over last week while I was flying out of Portland!
Last Wednesday we held our November meeting to discuss Delia Owens’s bestseller, Where the Crawdads Sing. I think it’s safe to say that this was the first time the majority of us could give a book two thumbs up - quite an achievement for us!
Where the Crawdads Sing has sold over a million copies since its release in early 2019 and has been overwhelmingly lauded as a success since Reese Witherspoon selected it for her book club early this year. Owens’s novel centers on Kya Clark, a young girl living in the marshlands of North Carolina in the early 1950s. Abandoned first by her mother, then her siblings, and finally her father, Kya must take cues from nature to raise herself. Cast out from local society as the “marsh girl,” Kya learns how to take care of herself by selling mussels, growing her own food, and fishing. When a local boy, Tate, teaches her to read, Kya’s world seems to open up, and she’s able to discover and develop her talents as a naturalist. As she grows up, Kya’s beauty and mystery attracts the attention of another young man, Chase Andrews, who is eventually found dead in a swamp. I won’t spoil anything for you here, but I will tell you that Kya’s love story, her supposed involvement in Chase’s murder, and her reverence for the natural world eventually collide.
Our discussion centered around the overall themes of abandonment, secrecy, and the impact of trauma on relationships. Most significantly, we explored the question of how much of our personalities, our innate characteristics, and our developed selves are formed through nurturing? And what about nature? Abandoned by the time she was ten years old, Kya was raised by Mother Nature, and that juxtaposition between nature and nurture seems to create a fragile yet resilient main character.
Another thing I was struck by was Owens’s focus on giving and taking in relationships. Kya is in romantic relationships with both Tate and Chase, and there’s a stark contrast between what each man gives and takes from Kya, and what Kya feels she gives away. It made me think about my adolescence and young adulthood, and how I compromised my morals for acceptance at times, often in pursuit of “love.”
Set against the lyrical nature of Owens’s writing, Where the Crawdads Sing is a simply gorgeous novel with so many layers of meaning, that I’m sure you’ll connect with at least one of them. What are your thoughts? Likes? Dislikes? I’d love to hear your opinions!
For those of you reading along with us, our *holiday-themed* December read is Gingerbread by Helen Oyeyemi! I can’t wait to dive in!
Happy reading! -Emily
P.S. Cover image from Jessica at Latest Book Crush!