Read IN BED: Where the Crawdads Sing
Words by Suyin Cavanagh
Set in Barkely Cove 1969, a small coastal town in North Carolina, surrounded by marshland, Kyra lives in a world of survival mode and isolation. Her family’s shack is located in the swamp area which is undesirable to most, and inhabited by few on the outskirts of town. She is known by townsfolk as ‘Marsh Girl,’ a disparaging term that is used to describe her by others well into her adulthood.
Owens blends the constant heart beat of nature with fine characters and harrowing narrative peaks. The opening prologue sets the death of golden boy footballer, Chase Andrews and possible murder as the central theme. From here readers are taken on a wild journey into the past, and Owens displays her agility in the art of clever and suspenseful story telling, a study in how to layer masterfully the elements of ... memory, meaning and motive.
Owens blends the constant heart beat of nature with fine characters and harrowing narrative peaks.
The strange title struck me immediately and encapsulates the essence of our beguiling, intriguing and brave heroine Kyra. Where the Crawdads Sing, is a marshland spot “far in the bush where critters are wild, still behaving like critters.” A seemingly simple observation by Kyra’s special childhood friend Tate, however, intonates multifaceted meanings in a historical time and place where the pairing of social standing and skin colour are rife markers for segregation and racism.
We are continually immersed into the natural world by the storytelling gifts of Owens, her background as a Wildlife Scientist in Africa, and academic studies in Zoology and Animal Behaviour shimmer and are captivating to behold. Through Kyra we discover an array of animal species, subtle ways to read the tides and waterways, and a deep connection and respect for the wild birds unique to this marshland. Our appreciation of the birdlife is tinged with Kyra’s first bloom of romance, when a daring and joyful exchange of rare feathers acts as teenage courting gestures ... almost mirroring the elaborate mating rituals of exotic bird species themselves.
Perhaps most revealing is that I read Where the Crawdads Sing in less than 24 hours, which is rare! The beauty of this novel is perfectly captured by these opening words which continue to leave an imprint. “Marsh is not swamp. Marsh is space and light, where grass grows in water, and water flows into the sky. Slow-moving creeks wander, carrying the orb of the sun with them to the sea, and long legged birds lift with unexpected grace-as though not built to fly-against the roar of a thousand snow geese”.
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