Publisher: PENGUIN GROUP Putnam
Pub. Date: August 14, 2018
This unusual mystery follows two timelines that slowly intertwine from 1952 and1969. The first timeline revolves around the lonely life of a girl named Kya. Owens will break your heart with this character. She grows up in extreme poverty, living in a shack in the marshlands of North Carolina. The townspeople shun her, referring to the child as the Marsh Girl. She is completely on her own since her family abandoned her when she was six-years-old. The second timeline follows the murder investigation of Chase Andrews, a one-time local football celebrity. The author may have made Chase a one-sided character. He is the epitome of male entitlement. I promise that you will not like him.
The mystery is unusual for a variety of reasons. The author is an American wildlife scientist, so it is not a big surprise to find her protagonist escaping into the wildlife that surrounds her. However, it is a surprise that Owens spends a good deal of time educating her readers on swampland wildlife. Another unexpected element is that the writing style is often poetic, including actual poems, sprinkled throughout the book. Consequently, it is often hard to remember that you are reading a mystery. The author manages to pull it off by adding a 1969 murder at the beginning of the book, and then at the end having a teenage Kya becoming the suspect. In between, you will find yourself mesmerized in a slice of the very unusual life of the Marsh Girl.
This ‘whodunit’ is utterly different from contemporary crime thrillers found on the bestsellers list. Other than a twist at the ending of each story, there are no other similarities between “Crawdads” and “Gone Girl.” The beauty in this novel is that the writing is both silent and loud. Kya’s silent isolation fosters her loud, powerful sense of independence. Even though I thought the little girl’s survival skills read more like a super child than a human child, I still just loved the rich tale of Kayla’s coming-of-age. Personally, I could have done without the mystery. Yet, there are no faults with that part of the plot either. This intelligently written, distinct novel is a win-win no matter the genre.
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