Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens: This one had me head scratching.

This old crawdaddy won’t waste any more time: This is the most overrated book I’ve read in a long while.

I mean it’s not terrible, but I personally don’t feel it warrants all the accolades, book club features, the endless press and marketing etc. It was the library’s sweetheart for a couple of years.

Almost all reviews of Where the Crawdads Sing are glowing and raving, and look, I like me a good southern setting. And from the loose description of the plot about Kya, this ‘swamp girl’ who’s been abandoned by her family rings just about the right amount of V.C Andrews-ish toxic drama that I am guilty, I’ve read a lot of decades ago.

So let’s start with the things I liked / didn’t mind about Where the Crawdads Sing.

And when I saw this video, I finally got a copy of the book.

Out of all the video and written reviews, this is the one that I found the most interesting.

Well, for one, I never realised that authors apparently only had 8 sentences to prove to publishing houses that their work is worth publishing.

According to the video, because publishing houses do not have the time to read all pitched works from start to finish, they judge the worthiness of a pitch with just the first eight sentences. And this video literally gushed and raved about all eight sentences. As you can see, each sentence was dissected to the bone.

As per the critique, not one word was unnecessarily used in the first paragraph:

The morning burned so August-hot, the marsh’s moist breath hung the oaks and pines with fog. The palmetto patches stood unusually quiet except for the low, slow flap of the heron’s wings lifting from the lagoon. And then Kya, only six at the time, heard the screen door slap. Standing on the stool, she stopped scrubbing grits from the pot and lowered it into the basin of worn-out suds. No sounds now but her own breathing. Who had left the shack? Not Ma. She never let the door slam.

Do we agree on this? Okay, it’s not a bad first paragraph. I agree with the critique, the last two sentences gives that subtle pull that makes you want to find out more, for the story to unravel itself more.

I gotta give it to Delia Owens, her description of Kya’s world was great. Delia Owns is also a zoologist and you can tell she knows her flora and fauna. I actually found the parts where she described insect behaviour quite fascinating. There’s a whole lot of personification used in describing nature’s setting, which I didn’t mind.


I also liked that she made Tate (Kya’s male interest) an imperfect ‘knight in shining armour’. At the beginning, when he started becoming Kya’s tutor and pretty much taught her how to read, write, and do maths, I thought, “Ok, that’s sweet but how typical! A boy with tousled blonde hair saves her”.

But I was actually both disappointed (for Kya) and also relieved (that it wasn’t the usual plot) when he turned out to be not such a perfect guy. He pretty much ditched and ghosted her. I was sad for Kya but that point in the novel made me go, “Ok, let’s find out what happens to her since he doesn’t turn out to be the gallant prince after all.”

I mean, it made me root for Kya even though her personality and character weren’t defined quite well in the book.

I also liked that years after, when he and Kya were in relatively good terms again and he offered her a solution to sustain herself financially, it also wasn’t in the form of saving her.

Once again Tate was nudging her to care for herself, not just offering to care for her. It seemed that all her life, he had been there. Then gone.

So here are a couple of minor things I didn’t like: First, the entire idea that a 6-year old girl can survive all on her own in swampland. This in itself is just a little too ‘Jungle Book’ to believe but hey, it’s fiction, and it’s not at all technically impossible. Second, for someone with very little connection and interaction with the outside world, Kya’s transformation into this attractive poet seems too idealistic. During Kya’s older years, we are to learn that almost all of her clothing were given by Jumpin’ and Mabel, overruns from donation / charity it seems. And out of those, she seems to have learnt how to assemble a style chic enough for her to always turn heads whenever she came to town. Again, not impossible. Maybe we missed the part where she probably got her hands on some catalog or magazine for ideas at least?

Ok last part that I didn’t like was the courtroom drama, specifically Tom’s (Kya’s lawyer) closing appeal to the jury. Leading up to the closing part, he was all about facts and alibis, which were pretty strong actually. And all of a sudden her turns sentimental in the end, musing about how ‘we’ (the ‘townspeople’) actually were responsible for Kya turning out to be the ‘swamp girl’ that she is? To me, it seemed that he had such strong evidence so there really is no need for a week, emotionally-driven closing.

Anyway, those are extremely minor things which I have been willing to overlook, except there’s one major thing I did not like.

Kya was actually guilty of cold-bloodedly murdering Chase Andrews.

It’s this ‘plot-twist’ and ‘unforgettable ending’ that many rave about that actually made me not like the book overall.

I mean sure, Chase Andrews was an asshole. If she killed him accidentally (or not) during that scene when he physically hurt her, I would have been okay with it.

But in the end, she crafted and planned the murder very carefully. Lured him to the tower where he fell to his death. And was seemingly proud of it too, based on the poem she wrote, which Tate discovers after she dies (and that’s how we all learn too that she was actually guilty of the crime that she was judged not guilty of years ago).

It bothers me a lot that the ending kind of tries to make premeditated murder romantic (through that silly poem) and okay.

And that one thing is big enough for me not to join the bandwagon of praises for this book.


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