Starting at age six, Kya Clark’s family members left her behind one by one until she was living in the Carolina marshes all alone. Why did they do this? Well, because Delia Owens needed them to, I suppose. Another good question is how in the heck a child is supposed to get by on her own, to which the answer is apparently by gathering and selling mussels. Eventually, somehow, Kya grows up, learns to read, becomes an expert on the flora and fauna of the marshes, and gets not one but two men to fall for her. When one of those men turns up dead in the marsh mud, Kya is the natural first suspect, considering the local village’s intense prejudice against her.
If you can ignore how ridiculous this premise is, you can get wrapped up in the story pretty easily. Who doesn’t love a good courtroom drama, after all? But even still there are aggravations galore. Owens’s dialogue is atrocious throughout, unnatural and tin-eared. It’s even more egregiously bad in the mouths of Owen’s African-American characters, one of whom is given the unfortunate appellation of “Jumpin’.” Yeah.
I’m not going to spoil it, but I’d like to wrap up this review by letting you know that the ending of Where the Crawdads Sing is one of the worst I’ve ever read. It is genuinely rage-inducing and frankly makes me question the author’s understanding of her own novel. It also makes me wonder how this book became such a word-of-mouth hit. I can’t imagine reading that conclusion and then recommending it to anyone. I think I’ll go to see the movie just to find out if they really stick with this absurd ending or try to come up with something better.