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Book Review: Where the Crawdads Sing

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens is a book that lives up to the hype. It’s spent a jaw-dropping 67 WEEKS on the New York Times Best Seller List, and now I totally see why. IT. IS. GORGEOUS.

Owens spent decades as a nature writer living in Africa, and it shows. Even though Crawdads takes place on another continent entirely, you can tell that this author has a special talent for descriptive language; her prose is exquisite.You FEEL everything about this setting~ smell, hear, and taste it, too. I’ve honestly never read a book with such minute attention to detail or such perfectly precise adjectives.

Although she’s not a native, Owens has done us proud in capturing a sense of that tranquility for which the Carolinas' coastal communities are famous.

The plot and character development in this novel (although not as fine, in my opinion, as the description of the setting itself) are by no means inadequate; Kya is a well-crafted protagonist, but the background information for the secondary characters i.e. Chase, Tate, Jumpin’ and Mabel is almost frustratingly minimal. Although I’m sure it was sparse by design, I just couldn’t help but want MORE.

We get fascinating tidbits throughout: briefs scenes about Tate’s mother and sister, the story of how Kya’s parents met, a throwaway line here and there about her siblings, but very few callbacks to this information. At times this book really does read more like a travelogue than a novel, as if the people are really no more important to the landscape than Big Red the gull. Which I’m sure could be interpreted as some larger commentary on the transitory nature of human relationships as opposed to the immutable essence of Mother Nature, but even weeks later, I’m torn on whether I appreciate or am put off by such lofty philosophizing marketed as pop-fiction.

The “mystery” portions of the book feel rushed in comparison, even though the current day chapters were much more plot-driven and action-packed. While I’m sure some readers will see it coming a nautical mile away, personally, I was completely thrown by the twist ending. I almost feel the need to go back and re-read the entire book to see if I can detect any missed hints or foreshadowing. (KIND-OF SPOILER: PAY SPECIAL ATTENTION TO THE POETRY! YOU’LL THANK ME LATER.)

Overall, a beautifully written page-turner that has me longing for summer and vacation days spent in the Outer Banks. Definitely take this one with you on Spring Break!

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