Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens (2018. Putnam. ISBN 978-0735219090)

Yes. I agree. I’ll keep this review short. I applaud Ms. Owens for creating a memorable character, providing us a vibrant, natural setting for her tale, and, with one minor exception, executing a nearly perfect debut novel. This is the second novel that Rene’ and I listened to on Audible during our long drive from Duluth to Bozeman.

Those reviewers who bemoan that the protagonist, Kya Clark, pejoratively known in her rural North Caroline coastal community as “The Marsh Girl”, and her backstory (being abandoned at age 7 and living on her own in the marshes and swamps of her backyard) is unbelievable as a character-that her survival is too trite, too unrealistic-miss the beauty of Owens’s writing and her request of her readers. Which is: that we suspend our cynicism and skepticism, all too apparent and distracting in this Topsy-turvy modern world, and simply enjoy a morality tale. I found her writing well-crafted, her storytelling exemplar, and her characterizations, including that of Kya, remarkable.

My one criticism of Ms. Owens is that her setup of the legal proceedings against The Marsh Girl (for allegedly murdering her lover; one of the town’s football heroes and local legends) rings hollow. The author simply doesn’t support the conclusion that, even in rural North Carolina in the 1960s, a sheriff and prosecutor (and ultimately, the trial judge), would plow ahead with a capital murder charge against a white woman on such flimsy (really, nonexistent) evidence. I get that the world’s against Kya; that she’s The Other despite her white complexion. But really? There’s simply no way, on the skimpy premise advanced as probable cause, any reputable legal system, even one composed of racist, simple minded locals in a southern state, would force the case presented by Owens to trial. No way.

But the remainder of the writing, the story, and the plot twists all ring true. So I will forgive the author if, as a non-lawyer, she didn’t get all the procedural or evidentiary matters lined up to support her protagonist’s brush with old sparky. After all, even Grisham doesn’t always get it right! (See my review of his his most recent, The Reckoning, on this blog for details.)

Solid literary fiction with a protagonist nearly as memorable as Scout.

4 stars out of 5.

Peace.

Mark

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