This review of Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens is for the small percentage of readers who didn’t like it – to let you know you’re not alone.
The longer I have my book blog, the more reticent I am to write negative reviews. For one, I have not done the very hard work of finishing a novel, much less have had one published. Second, in my deep appreciation of the written word, I’ll extend grace to most anything that encourages reading. Often it is books with the popularity of Where the Crawdads Sing that encourages someone to return to reading – and that’s a good thing.
That said, this is one of those times when I feel the world of opinions needs some balance. I did not like Where the Crawdads Sing.
I have written before about the disservice some editors do for their authors by not fixing blatant errors and problems, and Where the Crawdads Sing falls into that category as well. Here are just a few examples that irked me:
- When Kya packs a picnic for Tate early in their relationship, among other things, she packs French bread & cheese, saying it is her favorite picnic snack. Really? A girl who has lived off of grits and mussels – just when and where did she experience French bread? I can promise you Jumpin’ wasn’t selling French bread in the tackle shop. A loaf of Sunbeam – for sure – but no French bread.
- When Kya gives Chase the necklace with the unique shell, she says: “There are many of that genius here, but this particular species usually inhabits regions south of this latitude because these waters are too cool for them.” This is simply not how Kya talks. And before you offer, “Well, she’s been reading text books…” remember that Owens is depicting her as someone who really knows her stuff, and we all know that the better you know a subject, the better your ability to talk about it in your own language.
- When Jodie shows up, Kya tells the story of how he got the scar on his cheek. A good editor would have placed that event earlier in the narrative when Kya talks about her abusive father and then let the scar itself identify the stranger.
It is examples like this last one that are most pervasive in the novel, and are the most egregious. Owens lacks the art of subtle revelation in her narrative. She repeats things over and over as if she needs to remind the reader about the clues she’s leaving.
Similarly, Owens’ nature prose is too heavy handed. I love a beautiful description with a metaphor as much as the next reader, but I also get the parallels between wildlife and human nature – you don’t have to beat me over the head with them. Again, subtly can go a long way. By the way, this is the author’s fault, not that of the editor.
And, I don’t know if that’s she been gone from South Georgia for too long, but I thought her Southern dialect was horrible. As one fellow (Southern) reader said, “It’s insulting.” Well said.
***SPOILER ALERT: If you haven’t read Where the Crawdads Sing and plan to, you may not want to read any further. ****
The death of Tate’s father had no purpose. Why introduce a character just to kill him off in the last two chapters? If his relationship with Tate was necessary, make it a part of the story when Tate and Kya were first together. It seems this was included solely for the moment when the sheriff comes for him – to make the reader wonder if Tate is being arrested for the murder. When that doesn’t happen but you have what is supposed to be a poignant graveside scene, it falls flat. About the only thing that it does do is cheapen the death of Jumpin’, which really should be tender.
While I didn’t hate the fact that it turns out Kya did murder Chase, I do think the way it was revealed was low-rate and demonstrated the author’s inability to (again) artfully craft a narrative where this bears the weight that it should. As it is, Tate and Kya live happily ever after – her knowing she killed Chase – and Tate finds out after she dies? What’s the point? This feels like an elementary solution.
This review is long enough without me getting into all that is wrong with “Amanda Hamilton” but suffice it to say, I wanted to scream every time one of her poems was dropped into the story and finding out that Kya was the poet didn’t make it any better. (A better “ah-ha” for Amanda Hamilton would have been that she was Kya’s mother – and Kya to have discovered she had this link and shared language with a woman she longed to know.)
With all of this said, here is my one concession: I hold books that have gotten the type of praise that Where the Crawdads Sing to a higher standard than other books. If I had read this without seeing it on every summer reading list I would have likely given it a middle-of-the-road three star rating and moved on. But when I see people falling all over themselves over what is at best fair-to-middling writing, I have to speak up. Where the Crawdads Sing isn’t worthy of the hype.
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135 Replies to “Book Review :: Where the Crawdads Sing”
Oh how refreshing! I honestly do not understand all the praise this book is receiving. “I can’t even!” as my young nieces would say 🙂
Yes! This is why I wrote it. The world needed balance when it comes to this book.
Kya bought French Bread in Chapter 29! Just sain’
I was waiting for her to make Tiramasu next.
What happened to Kya’s dad??
And yet the scene devoted at the end to Tate’s dad??
Tate , by the way, was one of the sweetest characters I’ve read about in a long time when he was 14 to 18 years old. The man deserved better
He was a very interesting young man and broke my heart in a few of the scenes where he was helping Kya when she was a little girl and he was a young teenager.
Loved those interactions!!
I just do have to say that are we to believe that Reese Witherspoon is thinking of playing Kya in the film version?
Ummm. Cute as she is…
She’s 40 years old.
Tiramasu…LOL! But you’re right…
uh yeah i liked tate, till he started dating Kya when he was 18/19 and she was 14??? and then abandoned her?
Thank you, Sally, for sayin’ …
In all her lunches with Tate, and in two readings of the novel, I could find no reference to French bread. Your observation also enabled me to affirm that the picnic was not meant for Tate, but for Chase—until she discovered he was engaged.
This book has really shown me how easy it is to skip over details. I was making myself a little dizzy trying to find French bread “early” in her relationship with Tate, who, I was sure, had brought all the goodies to their get-togethers. Your tip led me to the right chapter and right relationship, where, on that particular page, beyond midpoint of the novel (not early), I underlined many things, but not “cheese, French bread, and cake ingredients.”
If Elisabeth ever publishes her novel, she must give it more care than she gave this review. She has made some serious errors in her three-point dislike of “Crawdads.” One, she got the picnic scene all wrong; two, she mistyped “genius” for “genus,” not proofreading her hypos over a trifling detail in dialogue (no novel is perfect); and three, she failed to see that Kya was having a long-suppressed flashback to the violence that scarred Jodie—Kya wasn’t “telling” the story.
As I say, Sally, you helped me through a dizzy spell. I really appreciate your diligence.
I thought it a fabulous book and this review facile, needless and non contributory
Funny, that’s exactly what i think of all of the positive reviews of this book, “facile, needless and non contributory”. A book review should contain more words than just, “Delightful”, or, “I laughed out loud!” We’re not at the movies.
I almost wondered if Chase’s betrayal had caused Kya’s personality to splinter and it was the morose Amanda Hamilton, rather than the gentle “Marsh Girl” that killed Him. Surprise ending? Anyone who didn’t catch on after the firefly/praying mantis passages was just not paying attention. It was a proper beach read but not the next Mockingbird as one breathless reviewer gushed.
Split personality – that would have been interesting!
Actually, I was thinking Mockingbird… but the much touted and equally disappointing second effort by Harper Lee (or “Harper Lee,” depending upon your opinion), Go Set a Watchman. Everything about Crawdads made me nauseous. I hope this is not where American literature is going, because it would be a sad thing.
Fortunately, there are writers like Amor Towles that give me hope!
Go Set A Watchman was finally published in 2015, I believe.
Amen to that. ” A Gentleman in Moscow” is a wonderful book with charm and depth. Also “Home in the Sky” by Ivan Doig is another great read. Just to name two books that are deserving.
Go Set A Watchman was actually Lee’s first novel that was never published. He editor suggested she expand the story in the book (that was very brief) about Atticus defending Tom Robinson. In addition, she told her to tell the story from a child’s point of view. That is how TKAM came to be.
As I browsed through reviews of this novel, I wondered if I would ever find anyone who found it as flawed as I did – thank you for articulating many of the elements that I found jarring and too much in the style of Nicholas Sparks. A better title would have been “Cinderella of the Swamp” with all the magical transformation of that fairy tale as well the clichéd romances, and the heavy-handed biology lessons. Now I have to spend 2 hours with my book group who I am sure will gush enthusiastically. As others have commented, this is a good beach read but certainly does not deserve the glowing reviews and comparisons to great novels such as To Kill a Mockingbird. Literary fiction – it is not! Thank you so much for making feel that I am not alone in disliking this book.
I’d love to hear how your book club discussion went!
Cinderella of the Swamp! Thanks for my laugh of the day!
I was disappointed by the lack of any detail about Kya’s research. The list or mention of flora or fauna was sad, no bitterness or terms or woodpeckers. No orchids or ferns. Why travel to Asheville instead of Realeigh or cities close to the coast? Too many characters follow a set cliche lacking much character at all.
That’s the first thing I thought, too. I don’t even live in NC, no one would drive across the whole state when they could go to Jacksonville or Greenville. The basic premise of the story is so good, but many details could be improved upon to make it a classic.
This! And, I’m from Greenville, NC. I did enjoy the book, but I know too much about the layout of my home state and my home town to let the details slide. The Trailways bus station was downtown. Walking distance from my great-grandma’s house. Not highway 258 (I’m not quite sure where Highway 258 is,). And right, why Asheville–clear across to Western NC when Eastern NC is right there? That is all–had to express this somewhere, so thanks! The French Bread was for Chase, not Tate, much later in the book as another reader pointed out. But still….!
Kya didn’t go to Asheville, she went to Greenville which is considerably closer to the coast.
Sparks! Great comparison. I began one of his. Rare for me to read any fiction bestseller, but this was a gift. I began liking the author’s flowery use of her zoology expertise, but the errors so well pointed out in this blog, especially those directed at the editor, made me wonder what has become of America’s taste. I swear that either someone other than the author wrote the entire courtroom drama chapters or the editor gave up on that section and it reflects the writer’s real voice. Two very distinct voices in this book. I don’t recall ever seeing that anywhere, ever in English literature, but there is a reason I read classics and nonfiction.
May I borrow ‘Cinderella of the Swamp’?
8th grade story like island of the blue dolphin would have enjoyed it at14yrs old sorry Delia
Thank you for this. The book finally came up in my library queue after half my friends have gushed about it all year long. Now I’ve read it – and didn’t like it at all. I’m just hoping they don’t ask, because I hate having to tell someone who loves something that I thought it was bad.
We had a very engaging discussion at our book club with some who loved and some who did not. It actually made for a pretty interesting discussion.
I thought that flawed it was still a great read. Far from perfect and not a great book. Many flaws but many great and beautiful parts. You get the feeling the author pulled out all the stops and probably doesnt have anything left in the tank we will see. Still i love it.
Well put Guy!!!
‘You get the feeling that the author pulled out all the stops and doesn’t have anything left in the tank”…ha ha!
I kept thinking, “Hey lady, why don’t you save something and not use everything in your head in this one book?”
That being said, there were some moments of pure beauty throughout.
To say the book was utter crap seems to be unnecessarily mean-spirited, overly critical and perhaps even jealous. Especially if those being so viciously critical have never written a novel themselves.
I agree, it was a sad, sweet, exciting story that’s all.
It is what it is. I enjoyed it and would recommend it to most of my friends.
I was enjoying the story up to a point, but then I just couldn’t suspend my belief anymore. The author is a nature writer and those parts came off well, but come on, no other part of this book was researched or thought out. If you think about any of it, it falls apart. The setting, the language, everything. I understand people read for enjoyment and whatnot and sometimes it doesn’t matter, but to see this 5 star praise from people just saying it’s great and that’s the end of it makes me feel like Larry David standing there in the middle scratching my head while everyone pretends that nothing is going on. No, you can like a book and still be critical of it, this all or nothing praise is just a no for me. I can’t. I’m seeing this trend with most Reese Witherspoon book club picks, “delightful”, “fabulous”. That’s the book review. I want more for myself.
Tell them and tell them why
It is a book discussion
Not a monologues
i couldn’t make thru it at all..ugh. Sometimes when celebrities recommend things people think it’s the end all be all. I haven’t cared much for Reece’s suggestions or Oprah’s…
Thanks for this – I hated the novel and now you’ve provided me ammunition for my next book club meeting!
Refreshing and a relief to read this review. While I did not hate it, I agree that it is overrated and flawed. I cannot get over the red herringstl and tied up loose ends in the last chapters. Kya is Amanda Hamilton? — wait, how does the real Amanda Hamilton feel about that?
YES! The dialect and dialogue were both awful. Kya is a Boo Radley who is socially savvy whenever the author finds it convenient. Half-baked love story. At one point Jumpin threatens to get a posse after the most high-profile white guy in the white town – all to protect this white girl. REALLY? As if he doesn’t know what would happen to his own family and town and life if he does so? Bad.
The author of WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING should stick to non-fiction biology because her eagerness to describe (what seemed to be) every molecule of the marsh became as boring as an 8th grade microbiology textbook. In addition- her incessant descriptive details came off more like indulgent observations as opposed to moving the story along.
Speaking of having a story – there was such a low threshold to reach in the 1st part of the book that Kya and Tate’s 1st kiss – not an earth shattering event, mind you – at least made me put my coffee cup down as it jolted me awake.
I also found the conversation of ALL the characters so cliche. “Jumpin” sounded like a character in a Shirley Temple movie – not a real, complicated man. Both Tate and Chase were cardboard Good and Bad Boys.
Kya, however, was the most problematic. Goddess of the Marsh – I could see her on the cover of a cheap steamy romance novel. But then she also had this Howard the Hermit Hughes side. Don’t get me started on the Published Author career turn. The main problem with Kya is that the writer didn’t make her real (irregardless of plot turns). Kya was the author’s heroine- for sure. Unfortunately, the author saw her through rose-colored glasses because….in my opinion…Kya came off as a (albeit muddy) Disney Princess.
I did enjoy Sunday Justice the Cat, however.
I liked Sunday Justice, too. One of the few bright spots.
Idk if I can take your literary critique seriously after you used the word irregardless.
I absolutely agree.
Person, get educated before you dis on literature: “irregardless” is not even a word.
Whether or not irregardless is a word is a whole other area for discussion…under the heading: when a commonly used word is considered a real word: some schools think that if it means something to the listener, and is in common use, it can be considered legit like “gonna”. However, that aside, I have to say that I am enjoying this whole discussion as much as (or even more than) reading the book. I agree with all the skeptic-y types that felt there were too many inaccuracies and that it was too fairy-tale-ish (which is OK, as fairy tales have their place), but I would place it in the “Cinderella Porn” genre. We are doing it in our upcoming book club, and I fear expressing my real feelings as saying you didn’t like Crawdads is almost akin to say you kill kittens as a pastime.. But having said all that ,it was good read…with lovely descriptions of the marsh.
Thank you. I also had a big quibble with the geography. They keep running off to Ashville, which would have been a 8-12 hour drive from the coast in the 50’s. Baltimore, Maryland would have been more accessible! I also find it hard to believe that a truant officer would never follow up or a social worker never go looking for a child they knew was alone out there. Sure, she was looked at as swamp trash, but some people did feel a responsibility to do their job and see that kids were educated and cared for (at least the white ones). And what about hurricanes?
I’I’m glad someone pointed out the Asheville nonsense. Too, crawdads live in fresh water, not salt or even brackish. So, in addition to the character of Kya being utterly implausible and the dialogue being all wrong, the author is writing about an area, a culture, an ecology with which she is unfamiliar. Why? She spent very interesting time in Africa and in the Pacific Northwest. Why not write about something she knows?
THIS. SO THIS. I’ve lived in the southeast for 5 years now and hardly know anything about the area but even I knew this. Thank you!!!!
The geography was the very first thing that put off this NC native. First of all, most of the NC coast comprises a series of barrier islands, so you don’t see much marshy land going right up to the Atlantic Ocean. The “Graveyard of the Atlantic” is off the Outer Banks, far from any marshy land. NC doesn’t have everglades. Pa says: “They had land, rich land, raised tobaccy and cott’n and such. Over near Asheville.” Cotton would not have been grown in the mountains around Asheville, and the only tobacco might be small patches of burley, not the vast fields of brightleaf that you (used to) see in eastern NC.
The “Graveyard of the Atlantic” museum is at the south end of NC Hwy 12, south of Buxton (by the ferry to Ocracoke) … mile-wide barrier islands … 5,280-feet at the most. FWIW, I live on a barrier island salt march at zip 31410. Never heared no crawdaddys singin’, tho.
Thanks for this review. It ‘s helped me articulate lots if things I disliked about the book. (The comments helped too) i feel better about attending my Sept book club where some members have already heaped the praise
Thanks for leaving a comment! I’m happy to have been helpful! Good luck.
I was thinking about dropping out of a book club and decided to do it now so I won’t have to face those who loved Where the Crawdads Sing. The plot seemed like a poorly done young adult romance. I couldn’t quibble about the setting as I live on the California coast. However, feeding seagulls? Here we would be attacked and have to fight them off. Not a nice picture.
A close recommended this book and I had to tell her that I loved it, then my book group picked it and I reread it or rather I listened to the audio version. The parts that I couldn’t reconcile were that no one human came to check on her; her mother, her mother’s family, the school teachers, her siblings, her father, Tate’s father, anyone who saw her at Jumpin’s. How do you go from illiterate to college speaker when you seldom speak to anyone? I found the reference to the mosquito scooping out the previous mosquito’s sperm ridiculous and unbelievable. And finally, when Kya’s attorney describes how the timing of going to kill Chase while needing a boat and a bus ride back and forth more than enough the exonerate her, and I began to wonder how Kya could tell time? did she own a watch? How would she know to disguise herself? How did she spend her day besides making salted fish?
Thanks for letting me vent as well.
LOL! Happy to provide free therapy.
I think kya killed her father too….I did not like the book…I found it very slow.
I agree. The details of planning and executing such a murder did not seem to fit with Kya’s personality/character. The planning of arranging for an alibi, timing the bus rides back and forth (even though she only got a bus schedule when she first bought her ticket and boarded the bus the first time) , getting Chase to be on the fire tower at the right time that night ……. I can imagine Kya getting desperate if Chase kept trying to hunt her down, maybe murdering him in self defense when he came back , and maybe hiding/burying the body in a way consistent with her knowledge of the marsh. But the whole thing with timing bus trips, two different disguises for the extra bus trips to keep her alibit etc. etc., was very far fetched and not believable to me. Also. the ending was not satisfactory. I don’t believe that Kya would have kept that shell necklace, or that Tate would only discover it and put the pieces together after she died. Just not believable in so many ways. This type of premeditated murder and evil scheming does not seem consistent with Kya’s character.
Karin, I found the revelation that Kya was the murderer very disappointing. Simply, there was not enough time for her to commit the crime nor was it fitting with her character. It would have made more sense had Jumpin’ and Tate planned it out knowing she had the perfect alibi and could not be blamed. Also, how and when did she prearrange a meeting with Chase. I do not find it plausible that she hated him to the point of killing him in this extensively premeditated way.
Also, blaming the murder on her is a missed opportunity to develop the other characters such as Chase or his wife. And why does Chase go to dinner at his parents’ house but not take his wife? It makes no sense and there is not an attempt to explain it. Maybe their marriage was rocky since he was in love with Kya, a woman he believed he could not marry because of society’s expectations. At times he was a two dimensional player and others a deep person playing his harmonica and being happy getting away from the pressures of his life. The fact that he spent so many hours with Kya, always wore the necklace and kept the beautiful “relationship journal” shows he loved her deeply. And, why was that journal only brought up during the trial? I feel like it would have been something that was discussed while she was making it or even on the occasion she gifted it. He must have struggled with the decision not to own up to his love. When it was convenient for the story line to fall into stereotypes it would.
The whole geography of NC also was confusing. I live in NC and very little of it added up. Although, I will say, I enjoyed the story itself. I loved reading it because I was entertained and had to know if she would get convicted. I liked the descriptions and found the poems relevant and thought provoking.
The fact that I liked the story and Amanda Hamilton’s poems enjoyable was how I found this review thread. I thought there might be a book of Amanda Hamilton poems out there. It was odd at the end how the poet turned out to be Kya, somewhat unnecessary to the plot.
thank you for writing this! I felt duped by it….I was engaged initially by the nature narrative and the concept of nature as “mother”….but the romance and plot really fell flat for me. All of the things you’ve said and your commenters have said rang true for me. And I’m feeling kinda angry that so many think this is well written literature!
I agree with you.
Initially, tho it was slow, I enjoyed much of the concept of nature.
But then it became implausible.
How did she firstly lure Chase to the tower?
How did she plan the bus trips, when she only got the schedule when she purchased her ticket? And then the bus was late.
She just wouldn’t have had the time to clear the evidence before catching the bus back.
Where did she get the disguises from?
How did she know that the motel she chose to stay at was closest to the bus stop.?
There are many more anomaly’s I could go on and on.
It just wasn’t her character to plan all this.
And the final stupidity was to keep the shell necklace. One would think this was the last thing she would want to keep
Thanks for writing an honest review. No 6 year old calls a marsh an estuary. Nor would a 6 year old be able to start a boat engine and then run it that well.
I agree that someone would have taken food out to her house and tried to help. Going to Asheville from the NC coast to do business was absurd. Where was the coastal dialect of the 1950’s? I could go on and on.
OK guys, all very interesting, and in my opinion accurate. But what?…..Walter? What is IRREGARDLESS, aargh, that non-word is a pet peeve, not in the dictionary, and an unfortunate double negative becoming horribly common. Oh dear, my rant for the day! A great blog by the way 🙂
“Irregardless” is a pet peeve of mine, too. If she used it, I totally missed it! I guess everything else was already too distracting.
I wrote my response at 3am. Sorry to offend.
Well, perhaps the interweb gods were looking out for you because an earlier post from you didn’t come through.
The thing I found truly unbelievable was that she was able to take the bus all the way from Greenville back to the fire tower, do all the things she had to do to avoid detection and cover up the crime, and then BACK to Greenville in plenty of time to meet again with her publisher. Did I miss something or did the cops just neglect to subpoena the bus records that would’ve clearly showed something was aloof? The D.A. talked about people in disguise on the bus, but really didn’t give any buildup. But this isn’t John Grisham. I found the dialect also suspect: she goes from this hick accent to–viola!–speaking in Ph.D. language. Maybe the author assumed that readers felt that given her self- and Tate-education, that she would progress to that kind of banter. Still, I empathized with Kya, living the gawd-awful life she led in abject loneliness, being shunned by the townsfolk. Now, I’m going back to my “swamp.”
My thoughts exactly! How many folks could there be on that bus at that hour? Why not track them down to identify/eliminate the nervous and possibly disguised passenger!? On point as always L&L and thank you for an honest review of a book clearly written to appeal to Hollywood. Maybe a good screenwriter will make her mother the poet and clean up other loose ends to create more suspense. I predicted the ending when I saw the name of the final chapter.
Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment, Ginna! 🙂
I’m so happy to “meet” all of you! I’ve been wondering if I had missed something in this book, all friends and family have been praising it and I thought it was mediocre at best. What a relief!
Yes, welcome to the support group for those who are baffled by its popularity!
Hello, I am half way through the book and struggling to finish. I’m glad to know that there are so many others who see it as I do. I was beginning to think perhaps I’ve turned “uppity” from reading too many literary novels and could no longer enjoy a well-written mainstream novel. I don’t think that’s the case, however, This book is beyond redemption in my view.
I won’t rehash all that’s been said, but would like to add a bit about characterization. One of the biggest problems with this book, for me, is that the characters don’t ring true. For example, Kya has fond memories of her mother’s nurturing and gentle acts of kindness. Clearly, she is a woman of sensitivity who cares for her children, yet she leaves a man who abuses her when she knows full well that he also abuses the children. Really? And then, not only does she leave (all dressed up and ready to find a new life for herself, to hell with the kids), she never checks back on them? Never sends anyone after them? The character of Kya’s father is also problematic. Here’s a guy who turns into a jerk when he drinks. But why make the distinction if he’s supposedly a total jerk when he is sober too? The thing is, the author lets us see the father have some moments of bonding with his daughter; he teaches her to fish, gives her money, takes her out to eat. He even calls her “Hon.” And yet, after having established a connection, he can leave without a backward glance. He doesn’t seem to care if she’s easy prey or starves to death. Most people wouldn’t treat a pet that way, much less a kid. That is, unless the person is some kind of monster. And that’s the point; the father isn’t really so much a monster as a rage-aholic and an alcoholic. Or IS he a monster? The author can’t seem to make up her mind. Then we have the character of Tate. Wow. Teenage perfection in the form of a young male. A young male who so completely understands how lonely and rejected Kya feels after all the abandonment she has been subjected to, nonetheless turns around and does the same thing. He totally abandons her after carefully taming her wild spirit and spending months getting her to completely trust him. And all without so much as an explanation or a note…
Other characters operate in the story as stock characters without dimension,
the preoccupied social worker, the black store owner with a heart of gold and his heart-of-gold wife. And by the way, is there really no one in the entire town with a modicum of sympathy for a dirty, skinny child with no social skills and no parent in
sight? Then there’s Kya herself. As some of you have noted, her natural beauty and allure is an imaginative stretch. I could, for the sake of the story, get past that. But her remarkable ability to unpack dense biology texts after a few reading lessons and no formal education is rather ludicrous. I know some have countered the criticism of this novel by saying it should be read as an allegory. My understanding of allegory is that you are typically dealing with a simple story that symbolizes a much more complicated issue. The ideas of “connection-to-nature vs. disconnection,” “rural folk vs. town folk,” “respect for nature vs. exploitation” all operate as themes, not allegory.
Yes, yes, and yes. Thank you for stopping by and adding to the discussion!
So true. Also it was a stretch that Tate taught her to read using the book Sand County Almanac (a brilliant book which I happen to have read.)That is a real book by a naturalist with sophisticated writing. It could never be used to teach a totally illiterate person. You’d be more likely to start with easy children’s books. Yet she learned to read it easily.
Maybe you all should try the audio book Reads like a movie and most of your Criticisms are overshadowed by hearing Only point I make is there really is a poet named Amanda Hamilton
I think this proves my point. If you have to listen to it by audio book to not be annoyed by the errors, it isn’t quality fiction.
Hi, I just finished this book. 10 pages before the ending I noted to myself, Kya did it, I didn’t want that to be the case, but it makes sense. I kept thinking about that shell necklace.
It was quite a sad book. That’s okay but it seemed like 2 authors. The courtroom to the end was very different than the beginning. Maybe, I thought, because Kya changed, was shut down after the murder.
Anyway, it was fast forwarding , vacant and though Kya’s killing Chase was probable and predictable to me , her sneaking back on the bus is not realistic. I wish we had her inside story, like the entire book before the murder. I felt the author was just plowing through to the ending to answer The Who did it?
Thanks for letting me share my honest thoughts.
Interesting your point about two authors. I agree the courtroom scene was stronger than other parts – like maybe that section was more closely edited or workshopped than other sections.
I hate being critical too. But in this case, I think you missed some genuine literary devices and got stuck in the swamp with details. In University, I studied Annie Dillard ‘s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek . I studied it in the context of science communication. In Dillard’s case, as the title suggests, this is religion versus science or the combination of them. In this way, this book is similar. Her words on shells, or other treasures, are not her own but those of the biology textbooks she’s been reading. That device shows us how disassociated she is from human feelings and attitudes – all her emotions are bound in her scientific look at human interactions. That is really where the book has strength for me. I don’t worry so much about the french bread or butter. I don’t remember her saying it was her favourite. But it’s just not important because literature doesn’t have to be a science 🙂 I see your points but the book speaks to Lady of Shallott, the pilgrims, and how some struggle to bond their spiritual side with the scientific.
I have only three words….Hallmark Channel Movie
I had an issue with Tate talking about studying DNA and the double helix in 1960 in a small town in the south. My small town in the south did not cover this until later. (I have more details on this but my sister and I discussed this about 15 years ago when my son had to make a DNA double helix as a class project and we talked why this wasn’t covered in school when we attended.) It’s these kind of disconnects (like parroting scientific details rather than assimilating in her own voice to explain to Chase) that caused me to jump out of the story and I had to convince myself to jump back in. I would recommend you read Cross Creek by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings. She did extensive writings on growing up in rural swamp areas in Florida and you are pulled into her stories. She won a Pulitzer Prize for The Yearling, written in 1939.
Rawlings is on my TBR list – so thank you for the additional push. Thanks for stopping by and leaving your thoughts.
Helen, I just got Cross Creek based on your recommendation. Thank you!
Thanks for an interesting discussion. I agree that the novel is filled with all these outrageous flaws that should have consigned this book to the remainder bin after a couple of months. But that’s culture and taste in America. The movie will make a fortune, I’m sure. What is more amazing to me is that I have not read one comment in the numerous reviews I’ve read that even mentions the fact (much less analyzes it) that the novelist has created a very “sympathetic” female heroine who is nearly destroyed by violence, racism, cultural bias, ignorance, abandonment, etc., but who pulls herself out of the mud to become this wonderful artist/scientist, yet, who, in the last couple of pages, turns out to be a gigantic fraud. For god’s sake: SHE’S A MURDERER! Yes, she’s portrayed (endlessly) as a victim, but the fact is that being a lonely “wronged woman,” including an attempted rape, does not justify MURDER. This is not just a “twist” at the end! It blows up the main character! Thus the values extolled by the author throughout the book (love of nature, etc., etc.) are dwarfed by the overriding fact of her crime and her silence, including hiding her true character from the husband she supposedly loves. Even a decent author coming out of college with a creative writing major would have seen this massive problem—and would have either explored the possibilities of dealing with such human complexities, or perhaps just dumped this ridiculous novel and started a new one.
Agree. There’s a way that a more skilled writer could have crafted a scene of self-defense but in this case, it would have been premeditated & she lured him there for the purpose of killing him. She’s mixing her genres for sure to have the noble heroine turn into the guilty party.
Gosh, I have combed through the reviews here and on another site and you are the only one mentioning what troubled me so much about the book. If Kya murdered Chace, then I have no respect for her. If she never told Tate about it, I have even less. So what was the point of that whole story which was tugging at my sympathies to respect and value her? So I feel like the author tricked my sympathies and jerked me around which means I cannot really respect the author for that either. Secondly, do people really have so little moral center that they’re okay with Kya murdering Chace just for being an every-day-super-jerk that so many guys are? I’m not. Towards the end, Kaya says plaintively, “I never asked anybody for anything.” Well, killing somebody is asking them for the ultimate: their life. Now, no one seems to be mentioning this but there is huge chance that Kya is not the murderer (if there even was one), but somehow came upon that necklace anyway. 1) If Chace wore it “every day”, in reality people stop noticing whether someone is actually wearing a small item or not, so they could be wrong about him wearing it that day. 2) the murderer, if there was one, had about 40 years to give this to Kya (she died at 64 and Chace died when she was 24. She could have been come by it, and put it under the floorboards as recently as the last time the wood supply was low.) Insect analogies aside, there’s actually no proof provided by the author that Kya murdered him, and lots of reasons to think she didn’t. Most of the evidence points to there not having been a murder. How about a suicide? And about Amanda, I thought this would turn out to be her sister, who was named Amanda (according to the Bible records) and called Many for short. I think that would have been better than having the poet be the mother, which would be a little too “neatly wrapped up” for my tastes. Truly, the author should have mentioned suicide as a possibility somewhere along the lines, if for no other reason than to confound the reader. The guy was a jerk, and jerks have no self-esteem.
Never mind, Dan B, it turns out you were the first of many which appeared “below” (later in time) than yours, and I hadn’t seen them before I replied to you, Maybe yours helped people feel they had permission to say murder is not okay when the “motive” is having been jilted or even attempted rape. Though I understand the ourtrage that would emerge from an attempted rape, no one is above the law and self-defense 2 months later could not be claimed.
THANK YOU! I finished the book last night and have been reading reviews for the past hour and NO ONE has reflected this obvious fact! She’s a murderer for crying out loud.
The way Tate discovered her secret made me feel bad for him. It felt creepy and unfulfilling. He thought her to be this pure and innocent girl, different from all those other women…well yeah, doubt any of those other women KILLED a man! Not by accident, mind you, but actually PLANNED it!!!!
During the court scene I guess Owens didn’t want us in Kya’s mind much so her true thoughts can be hidden but when she was in the cell or staring out the window, detached from the hearing…with the knowledge later that she murdered Chase, Kya was scary. No remorse, no regret, no guilt. Completely ruined the character for me. Chase was a jerk but he didn’t deserve to be murdered.
I loved the first half of the book before the hearing, I actually loved the prose and nature writing but the court scenes and the ending completely ruined what could have been a beautiful book. I don’t think the murder was needed. This book would have been amazing as a coming of age story drawing parallels between nature and civilization as this girl grows up in isolation and loneliness only to come into her own as a successful artist and writer…Chase didn’t have to die..ugh wasted opportunity.
Person, ever heard of a run-on sentence?! Take a breath!
This is exactly it. I just finished this book earlier today and felt totally duped. I couldn’t believe how the main character was completely untrustworthy to the reader and everyone around her who supported and stood by her – her husband, brother, father-in-law, Jumpin and his wife, her attorney. She lied to all of these people for years. And she committed premeditated murder, which was completely detached from the character we read about. I have read some posit the possibility that Kya had a personality disorder. Perhaps, but that wasn’t set up and neither was it clear why chase would wear a necklace for four years or turn into a raging sociopath
Never (IIRC) was the subject of toilet paper mentioned … or soap … or tooth brushing or … the nail in the sole (“soul”?) made me wince. MASSIVE infection … never mind tetanus (which I haven ever known or heard of, other than in old wife’s (wives’) tails/tales.
So grateful for this thread. Tossed and turned all night after finishing the book. Among all the ridiculous trite romance novel qualities the fact that she ends up a murderer and a liar truly destroyed it for me.
I am so glad to hear that others found this much overrated book to be totally implausible, and not particularly well written.
I just finished reading this book after slipping and falling, hurting several body parts which put me in quite a bit of pain. My sister gave me the book days before as a gift. I had not read a novel
in quite some time and needed to rest, so into my bed I went with this book to take my mind off of my own painful place.
I thoroughly enjoyed the many metaphors and similes while figuring out the ending long before I was told by the author. Having been raped, I can understand the fear of Kya. As a writer, editor and proofreader, I also understand the role of a good editor. Many of the flaws you have related I also found, but as a person in pain looking for a story to take my mind off that, it served its purpose. Any reader would know that loose end shell necklace was bound to turn up among Kya’s hidden treasures.
I appreciate your comments as I also enjoyed my mind being taken off into the marshes with the birds, sand and wildlife. I look out on the Rappahannock River where birds of many kinds swoop and dance, perch and search for prey.
Bald eagles, and porpoises all play here from time to time. Raccoons and deer, wild turkeys and skunks, all meander by at their own pace.
Life goes on. Love is always somewhere to be shared and celebrated in the heart. Murder, however, is not a part of love.
thank you everyone for your wonderful comments. You have written by book club presentation for me.
By the way, hated the book.
THANKS GUYS..ditto your thoughts..googled thoughts on this book because I needed some feedback…The fact that she murdered Chase..ruined her whole character..and made me wonder why I wasted so much of my time reading this book ..oh it was a gift ..and i would be asked my thoughts..
Thanks for the courageous review.
It’s a plotless story, with an evil view of human nature, mindless and overwrought descriptions of nature, peppered with non-poetry. Perhaps worst of all, the novel lacks a key element of good mysteries: human motivation.
Agatha Christie is turning in her grave.
I think you hit on something with your comment. She hasn’t figured out what genre she’s writing & thus fails at them all.
And notice the horrible (and completely nondramatic) message: Don’t blame Kya (or — wink, wink — the author) for murder. Either nurture made her do it (abusive and neglectful parents) or nature did (the praying mantis). There’s no free will, no choice, no personal values animating the character.
Compare that to the gripping and unsparing portrayal of a murderer in Dostoyevsky’s “Crime and Punishment.”
I’m always suspicious of books on The NY Times’ bestseller list as 70% of the people in any given society have average IQs. That being said, all the previous comments ring true. I decided to search for critiques of this book because, though I found many passages to be lyrical, the whole story just didn’t gel.
As a retired reading teacher with a master’s degree in special education, I’ve spent years working with children in the area of literacy. In order to learn to read, learning to decode the abstract symbols of the alphabet takes about 500 repetitions per letter. Our brains have only been reading for about 5,000 years ~ which isn’t a long time in human development. Thus, Kya’s astonishing metamorphoses after 14 years of illiteracy from ignorance of the printed word to scientific genius was impossible to believe. The author might have been able to rectify this glaring error had she simply added a paragraph or two discussing the passage of time ~ years, for example ~ during which we could see Kya’s struggle toward literacy. But that was not done and, so, the reader is jolted out of the “vivid and continuous dream” (John Gardner) that great fiction achieves. We should never be removed from our reverie in fiction and slapped across the face with slips in technique. But, in “Crawdads,” we *are* and that’s just too bad.
In kindergarten, if we can get our students to master 52 letters and sounds within 9 months of school before we send them to 1st grade, as teachers we’re delighted. But reading is *not* just about decoding sounds! Basic sight words, of which I teach about 1,000 by the end of 3rd grade, must simply be memorized. They *cannot* be sounded out! Words like “the, do, is, from, enough” ~ to name just five ~ are examples of my point. Sight words make up approximately 80% of all the words we read ~ even in advanced texts. As we progress into print at higher levels, the percentage of sight words drops a bit but, still, they remain the *glue* in text. Tate may have taught Kya basic sound/symbol correspondence but her meteoric rise into Greek roots and scientific jargon is simply unbelievable ~ as many of you have mentioned. Kya has no mentor with whom she can go over the complexities of our English tongue; her accomplishments, then, seem contrived and unrealistic.
As an aside, I’m wondering, now that I’ve read this book, how in the *world* Kya would have been able to acquire all the props necessary for her disguise as she made her mad dash on the bus? Where would she have purchased the wigs and costumes needed to hide her identity? That would have taken some elaborate planning. Surely a shopkeeper would have remembered her buying those things locally. There are just too many loose ends in this book!
Someone recommended this book to me and though I’d clicked over it as I pondered titles during the last year or so, I agreed to read it to please a friend. As an avid reader, I can readily absorb a weak book and be none the worse for wear. Many of you have made excellent points regarding flaws ~ and, on the whole, I agree with your assessments. Despite those flaws, though, I did love learning about the details of life in marshes and swamps, areas foreign to me, and I reveled in the solitude of those places. I’m a thoughtful, quiet person and could not live without nature in my life. I’m always thrilled to add another bit of knowledge about our natural world to my body of understanding. “Crawdads” appealed to me in that way. I’ll let Hollywood sort out the rest since, surely, as many have stated, this is a Hollywood novel that will make millions of dollars at the box office. It is not, however, literary fiction. Remember, the majority of readers who catapult books to the top of The NY Times’ bestseller list don’t seek excellence but, rather, escape. I like my fiction to offer more than that. I like it to move me. This book falls short. While “Crawdads” can offer us a way to spend a few spare hours, it’s most definitely not a book that will rock our literary world.
When I’m not enamored with wildly-popular books, I always wonder what I’m missing, why I’m not following the crowd. As a writer and editor, I respect the craft of writing, but have a rule: if my my editor self kicks in while reading, something’s wrong with the writing, And from the prologue on, “Crawdads” — while easy enough to buzz through — opened up numerous questions and problems that many readers point out here on this blog.
I can suspend disbelief enough to acknowledge that maybe Marsh Girl had innate, almost primitive, survival techniques; that Tate had a higher-than-average intelligence and relatability to teach Kya to read and that she would have had no other way to spend her time but to dedicate herself to learning.
-With her extreme malnutrition, she would have been sick. A lot. She also would have had other problems with her hair, nails, teeth – she simply couldn’t be as beautiful as the author claimed.
-She wouldn’t have had any authentic social or conversational skills – simply saying she’s shy doesn’t even begin to cover how inept her interactions with Chase would be, no matter how much Tate talked to her before he left. So Chase was obviously a convenient plot device for the murder and a weak attempt at forcing class issues. I believe this was also the case with the movie “Nell.”
-Using the overwrought “Magical Negro” trope of Jumpin’ and Mabel, combined with the dialect, was incredibly racist. I lived in the South and Deep South, including Coastal Carolina. Most people out in the Outer Banks have a unique Southern-New England dialect, and it’s hard to replicate verbally, much less with the written word. Further, everyone would speak that way because of the isolation of location, not just Jumpin’ and Mable. Most writing professors tell students not to use dialectical language unless you’re certain you’ll get it right.
-Amanda Hamilton’s poetry inserts were simply unnecessary, so this part of the ending was forced for no reason.
-The prologue, if there has to be one, (I hate prologues!) should always tell the truth. I think this is what disappointed me the most: the blatant sellout of the main character. If she believed her survival depended on killing someone, Kya the Marsh Girl wouldn’t have wrangled bus schedules, disguised herself, raced against time, and lured Chase to the fire tower. The prologue proclaimed the marsh is life, while the swamp is death. Kya the Marsh Girl would have lured Chase to the edge of the swamp, made love to him, and while he napped briefly, smacked him with a branch to knock him unconscious. Before she ripped off the necklace, she would drag him into the murky waters and let nature take its course. Maybe Chase’s boat was found adrift near her shack, and Kya is called into questioning, but the mystery of his disappearance—never solved—adds to the Legend of the Marsh Girl. Perhaps years later, Tate would find a worn shell necklace strung on rawhide in a drawer after her death, and wonder what it was. He wouldn’t know…
…but the reader would. And that’s the point.
That’s a much better ending! Great points all around. Thanks for dropping in and contributing to the conversation.
Great site! And thanks. I’m sure every reader imagines a story going a different way. But if I were Owens’ editor, I would have reminded her of the integrity of her character. She still probably would have gone her own way, as she should, but at least there would have been a discussion. 🙂
I agree with so many of your points. This novel romanticises neglect and loneliness, both of which I’ve experienced and neither of which are remotely romantic. Neglect makes it extremely hard to form social relationships, it doesn’t just make you shy and neglected kids are usually bad at taking care of their physical appearance.
For goodness sake everyone, it is a fiction, a story. I take on board the inaccuracies and implausible happenings but I was so wrapped up in Kya and her life that I turned pages way into the wee hours. I was so upset when the book was finished. A person I had “lived with” was dead and the book ended.
I’m another reader who missed the promised “gorgeous, lyrical prose.” At heart, this is a manipulative story, with the puppeteer’s moving strings visible. The phoniness is, more than anything, caused by the distance from the main character (for, after all, if we were close to her, the ending “surprises” would have had to be disclosed at the time). Instead, the writer attempts to make us feel close to Kya by having her speak aloud to herself about her loneliness, etc., and having her recite bad poetry (without even acknowledging to herself its origin!). Grrrrrrrr.
I waited and waited for this to become available at my local library, and when it did I eagerly started to read I knew nothing of reviews, which is the way I like to dive into a new book and decide how it moves me. While I love descriptive phrases and metaphors, this was way over the top and not in a good way. So far at page 58, I WILL finish but am finding so many things cringeworthy that I am afraid that’s what I will remember rather than the characters or story line. Not a writer. Not a wannabee writer. Just a reader who loves good books that worm their way into my brain and get me to think. Thank you for writing this commentary…it fits my reactions so far even though I am only 58 pages in.
I can have a willing suspension of disbelief that her isolation, her feeing under threat, and her living again in fear in her own home of a violent man might drive Kya to kill the tormentor—under certain circumstances. But I cannot buy for a second that Kyra is racing around catching buses in disguises, motor boating up the coast, climbing fire towers, luring/manipulating/murdering a man—all between being dropped off at 10 pm after a lovely dinner and first meeting with her editor and being picked up at 7:30 am for breakfast with said editor. Unbelievable. Completely out of character. Don’t get me started on the going to Asheville from the coast to buy supplies or a bike.
I am having trouble with the red wool fibers found on Chase’s body. Why didn’t Tate suspect her guilt after that evidence was presented?
I thought that Chase ended up with the red hat when they were batting it back and forth.
I’ve just read this book in Catalan, my mother tongue.
I agree with the most repeated issues here written.
I’ve found several translation mistakes, attributable to editor in my language.
Despite it’s a book that is agreeable in the most of the chapters, lacks of coherence.
Writing about mother cells in 1961 when first hypothesis was proposed by Canadian scientist in early 1960 is, at least, a temerity.
Also putting in Kya’s voice Einstein Theories is not realistic.
I’m not able to talk about idioms or words used by people in New Carolina in those years, either the bus availability.
In the other hand; in my opinion, too much paragraphs are self-dedicated to the writer.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts – an interesting perspective given you read it in a different language.
I have scanned comments and replies, and like many of the contributors, I have written and edited fiction, so we read differently than many readers. I was put off by the use of dialect, and then found it inconsistent. I would think an editor would have cleaned that up. This stuck out for me (and probably many Tarheels): there has never been a Raleigh Herald newspaper in Raleigh, NC. There is a Raleigh, West Virginia, that has or had a Raleigh Herald. It’s a small point, but puts the author’s research in other areas in question.
If I could get past the absurd storyline, the poor use of dialect, and the uneven (at best) writing then I would give this more than 2.5 out of 5 stars. I would have given it fewer stars but there were times when it was so bad it was good. Listening to the audiobook I found myself laughing out loud. When the author described this marsh child who had lived on her own exposed daily to the sun the bugs the mud without adequate food, clothing, medical care and grooming opportunities as nothing short of the most beautiful woman to ever live I nearly spit my coffee across the room. Then there was the passage where the teen boy mansplained to the most observant “nature genius” on earth that she was getting her period for the first time. And I can’t stop chortling thinking of the numerous “almost sex” scenes. The trial never quite made sense to me either. How could they charge her with first degree murder when they themselves admitted that it could have been an accident.
I must stop because there are so many things in this book that either make no sense or are completely ridiculous. I could go on and on. That said I can see why Reese Witherspoon claims to love it. It will make a decent movie and if she can encourage enough people to read the book and be invested in the story it will be a guaranteed money maker.
“. . . the most observant ‘nature genius’ on earth . . .”
Exactly! She’s supposed to be the “noble savage” (a tired, discredited story) who’s capable of miracles, and who’s justified in doing anything (e.g., murder) because society’s corrupt and has corrupted her. (I.e., it’s a thinly veiled auto-biography.)
THANK YOU so much for this review. After reading the book, I kept thinking, “Reese, stick to acting”, I’ve seen on a few talk shows that she reads constantly, and since she loved this book and added it to her book club, I wonder what books she’s reading.
By the end, I was groaning every time I saw another poem by ol’ Amanda on the page.
The whole book was implausible, from a 6 year old surviving on her own, to her beauty and intelligence. I used to work with a woman who taught herself Organic Chemistry. She was very intelligent but couldn’t pronounce anything correctly. I think Kya would have the same problem. I also couldn’t imagine how Kya “lured” Chase to the fire tower, although maybe that was covered as I skimmed the last few chapter.
I wonder if she also killed her father.
I’m here for you. 🙂
As a male child of the 60s, I couldn’t help but wonder why Chase and his pals – football players without college deferments – did not end up drafted and in Vietnam, which, trust me, was the overriding concern for 18-year old males in the 60s. Amanda’s “poetry” was awful. And the whole rigmarole about assembling multiple disguises by this character was ridiculous. I did appreciate the “close to nature” vibe, but this was not a book to move one’s heart.
It was heartening to see that other people have a problem with this murder when they believe Kya did it….. On the other hand, the number of people who assume Kya did do it is bewildering to me. “Oh, because she had the necklace. That’s proves it.” It proves nothing. She could have found it or it could have been given to her in the 40 years between Chace’s death and her own. After spending all that “time” as a reader with Kya, to me the more likely thing is that she did not murder him, which explains her blank traumatized mind that didn’t get shared with us during the trial, and it explains why she never “told Tate” about it. There was nothing to tell. Why is suicide never mentioned in the book or in the reviews? Is the myth that “rich people are happy” so entrenched? Maybe Tate was not in fact wearing the necklace that night, or maybe he tore it off and threw it in the swamp before he stepped into the grate hole. There is no evidence of a murder, anywhere. Only numerous theories crafted to support the hypothesis that Kya “must have” done it. To me, that means this is a book about how prejudice works in a community (and everywhere) and it’s especially effective and educational because most people think white people aren’t discriminated against. The book should be judged on how well it explores this problem, and I would say it does that superbly. It’s quite possible that people simply don’t mind bad accents and Asheville’s location because this book has a vision, even a mission, to educate people about the insidiousness and stupidity of prejudice. If white people see that they too can be victims, maybe they’ll wake up more to what’s going on far worse for people of color. But if you rush into the conclusion that Kya killed Chace (and the author might be extremely upset that people are doing that) then you won’t see that visionary message at all, but quite the opposite: that knee-jerk prejudice is justified.
“. . . she did not murder him . . .”
To arrive at that conclusion, one has to ignore tons of evidence that’s actually in the book, e.g., the confession poem, the insect-mating metaphor, the fact that she hid the necklace for all those years. (Your “maybes” are pure fantasy.)
“. . . this is a book about how prejudice works . . .”
And to arrive at that conclusion, one has to make up tons of evidence that’s not in the book.
One evaluates a novel based on what the writer included in the story — not on what a reader wishes for. The story is a paean to the (hideous) concept of the “noble savage.”
Ditto to so many of the comments here. I just thought it was me in many cases, since I am not much of a recent fiction reader and am a biology teacher who also lived in eastern North Carolina for 20+ years. I will not be repetitive here about the travel to Asheville, Raleigh paper name, and over the top selection of the praying mantis eating her mate vignette, but do want to add that I never met anyone from eastern NC who called a knit cap a ski cap – always, always, always they say toboggan.
The author lost all credibility for me when Kya’s mother’s old, well-worn volume of poetry contains poems by Galway Kinnell and James Wright—
Having once lived in Greenville, I was also flummoxed by everyone traveling to Ashville. Authors shouldn’t make mistakes like this, and good editors shouldn’t let them.
Thank you thank you for the Galway Kinnell point. His first book of verse was published in 1960 – not possible for her mother to have a Kinnell poem at that time. I, too, hated the book for all the reasons stated above: horrible dialect, far too many “ I’m so sure that couldn’t happen” moments, cheap sex scenes, teaser “hint hints” and overall bad writing. Who was her editor???
Thank you for writing this review. I hated the book too, and the comments have helped me process a lot of the thoughts I had, particularly the horrible noble savage and magical negro tropes.
As a psychologist and traumatised person, I felt that, at times, the treatment of psychological trauma was somewhat realistic (e.g. aspects of the father’s PTSD), but I found it simplistic and cliched overall. Part of that was the idea that romantic love is a psychic panacea. At the end of the novel, the ‘nice guy’ that she was obviously going to end up with asks her to love him without fear. Dude, you know that this woman is severely traumatised. Way to minimise her lifetime of abandonment and neglect.
I won’t rehash what others said about her magical ability to learn following her early life, but it was so unrealistic that I could not suspend my disbelief. Ditto her unearthly beauty and allure. Blech.
Like with Tate’s father, the death of Kya’s mother was handled horribly. And the way Kya talked about forgiveness of her mother etc- so heavy-handed. A real example of why you should show, not tell.
This is the first book I’ve read for my work book club and I’m a little apprehensive to find out what my new colleagues thought. I already know that my boss loved it.
I’m glad the post helped! Know you’re not alone in the universe & you can always point the club back here for proof if it seems you’re the lone voice in discussion. (But I bet you’re not.)
Can we just talk about the lack of emotion in every conversation? Aside from the hideous dialects, unbelievable childhood, textbook coming of age and the effing seagulls which are easily the most irritating birds on the planet, could the author have maybe just eeked out some emotion? Your long lost brother shows up at the door and you don’t throw him to the ground and beat the krap out of him for leaving you? You find mysterious feathers from a stalker, I mean adorable intelligent boy, and you just take them inside? You’ve grown up on your own in a marsh but yet you just open your somehow mature heart to this stranger?
Holy cream puff Batman give me some real life grit. Nobody said writing a novel is easy! But as the author you have to remember that we as the reader are not in your head, seeing it the way you do. This book made me so angry because what could have been a beautiful, funny, poignant account of an abandoned girl was stripped bare and left to those stupid, noisy seagulls.
As a social worker, one of the things that really irritates me is when the developmental characteristics of children are ignored. A child of six with so much trauma in her life would be very lucky to survive, but I can’t imagine how she could survive without the love of another human being until she was fifteen. So much had happened to her that she would have needed a lot of intervention to thrive and become the person she did. She may have been extremely intelligent but that doesn’t take the place of socialization.
I know it was set in an earlier time but social workers don’t go after children and make them come to school. It’s the parent’s responsibility to get a child to school and Kya’s father could have easily been found by the social worker or truant officer. I would be surprised that her shame at being barefoot would overcome her feelings of hunger for real food after eating nothing but turnip greens and grits. Certainly child protective services would have been called to see about her not having any food, and being left alone for days at a time. That constitutes child neglect and causes major harm to a child. That kind of harm would usually cause a failure to thrive and psychological damage. What sense does it make that Kya’s mother (who supposedly loved her children) writes to a violent alcoholic and asks him to send her child back to her? It’s preposterous. It seems like once she healed she would have come back with others to protect her and took her child.
And really after Tate teaches Kya basic math, gives her a few books, she checks out an Organic Chemistry book? I know honor students who needed tutors for that course. Kya goes to another town and checks out an interlibrary loan textbook with no identification?
For her to have taken the time to travel to a new city on a bus, something she’s never done, stay in a hotel by self, stayed up all night and convinced Tate to get to the tower at a particular time at night would have been quite difficult for someone as skittish as Kya. She hides when she see’s people in he r own marsh but she’s okay traveling on a bus. And figuring out a disguise? Lying when she has very little experience in even talking with people? She must have had significant rage in planning Chase’s murder to do all this. And I don’t believe she was psychologically sophisticated enough to hide her feelings. Plus, there are all the other concerns people have already cited. There are so many other books that are worth our time!
Oh for heavens sake! You sound like the townspeople during Kya’s trial!!!!
Wonderful nature descriptions.
Fantastic survival of a strong girl character.
everyone, please relax and enjoy this sweet and unique novel.
I completed the novel just now, and then I scooted around the web to find reviews. This was because Crawdads left me feeling very unsatisfied and even manipulated. I know from experience that when young children are neglected, abused, and abandoned that the consequences are always disastrous. The way the writer depicted Kya’s development was pure fantasy. I wish that children of trauma could develop as well as Kya did. Unrealistic!
Straight to the point, I read the first two pages, front and back and stopped immediately. Fin. Several of my friends whom are avid readers of many genres and value and appreciate the written word in reading as well as their own writing, strongly and I mean strongly suggested this book as, “it will be on your top ten list and illicit and evoke emotions that will run deep” kind of read.
I bought it with a very open mind of excitement and within the first page of reading the author’s attempt for us to discern swamp and marsh repeatedly…and was trying in my opinion too is hard to appear…poetically insightful, where we’d be “wowed” by her ebb and flow of taking much too long to get to the point without redundancy, allowed me to get a glimpse of her writing style.
I thought, “oh no”, but kept reading the next page and saw a pattern. There was no hook, just a lot of unnecessary descriptions that didn’t pull me in as I wanted to drawn to her fictional characters.
I fanned through the book and randomly landed on a page, much like spinning a globe and stopping it on some random country to see where you are going to live next type of game as a kid….anyhow, the fanned page I landed on wasn’t Bora Bora, it read exactly with the same stylistic approach as the beginning, meaning I could have started the book 3/4 toward the end and would have been able to dipict all I needed to know.
I returned the uncreased fiction and bought how the Philadelphia Eagles won the Super Bowl in 2018 for my son.
À polite ending to my opinion, kudos to her for writing a book, the time, her passion for it and happy for those who did enjoy it.
I know better than to fall for the fawning over an NYT BS. But… my best friend just gushed over it. Now how to tell her I found it remedial? Parts anyway, like the story, the plot. The whole thing seemed forced, contrived. As if it were only there to interact with the setting. Which was the part that kept me reading. Owens is a nature writer and at that she excels! She’s not a people person (having been reclusive in her research settings for years) and that shows. I’m not done and will have to finish it, but all in all, not surprisingly disappointed. I couldn’t even just use it for escapism, the story kep jarring me back to mental criticism. I hate that I’m a book snob. I wonder what Jane Smiley is working on? Or Marilyn Robinson? Anthony Doerr maybe?
I have to agree with these criticisms – farfetched Wuthering Heights without the grits
I find the above comments perplexing. That all of you find some deep need to trash the praises of other readers is disturbing. Some of you appear to be bent on vendetta over some offense. It’s as if you have been personally attacked by readers who find the book praiseworthy, intriguing, insightful. On reading praise for Where The Crawdads Sing I found no attacks on those who did not it might not enjoy the book. While there were times I grew impatient with the book I never felt insulted by those who did not. There are many things that explain away some of the criticisms. Kya us no ordinary child and cannot be seen as such. She lives in a natural world and everything that firms her us outside society. The mastery of Owens is in her ability to draw for us a wild child who is a genius, Tate notes this early as she almost instantly grasps the power of language, reads and rereads advanced textbooks learning more each time as what the books either collide with or fail to realize about their topics. She has no one to help her translate emotion so she looks at her feelings through the lens of scientific, in the field, observation. Key to the death of Chase are her observations of lightening bugs. She didn’t murder him. She only observed and then did what was natural. She is a genius apart from culture and a precious example of what we all might be should we grow from childhood to adult apart from society. I think the s as vice criticism are seated in a misunderstanding about what Owens is writing about and the book can’t be judged juxtaposed against similar stories of growing up in society. Mixed in heavily is of course all the makings of myth and fantasy, story and tale. Kya is not real on some level and cannot be judged so. She’s a wraith who hides and appears, runs and emerges. She comes out of the marsh as she longs to be human, but she’s not. Kya is not of us and that’s what makes her intriguing.
Also no prosecutor would have laid charges against her with the scant evidence he had. This made the courtroom section not credible to me.
Once again I’m so disappointed by a “best seller”. I have to finish a book once I’ve started reading it, but this story became more and more difficult to read as it progressed. Her mother’s story after leaving her children was ridiculous. She wrote a letter and made beautiful oil paintings but couldn’t find a way to rescue her children? She had family to help her, but couldn’t speak? Again, ridiculous.