What motivated our choice
Our inaugural selection is Where the Crawdads Sing, the debut novel of Delia Owens, a retired wildlife biologist. Crawdads transports the reader to the remote coastal marshes of North Carolina, a lush and wild setting completely different from our own beautiful town. First published in the summer of 2018 with a small printing of 28,000 copies, by the end of 2019, Crawdads had sold more print copies than any other adult title that year. While hugely loved and embraced by book clubs including Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine Club, the charms of the novel largely eluded this reader, who is curious to hear what you thought!
At age ten, Kya Clark is abandoned by her family and forced to raise herself in the North Carolina swamp. Isolated from the nearby fishing village and known and ostracized as the mysterious “Marsh Girl,” Kya attends school for only one day. But she learns from the wildlife around her both how to avoid the school truant officers and how to feed herself. She earns money by selling mussels and fish to a kindly storekeeper named Jumpin’. She also collects shells, feathers, bones and nests, and eventually becomes a talented naturalist and artist. When Kya becomes a teenager, two very different young men enter her life: gentle Tate, who teaches Kya how to read; and town playboy Chase, who pursues her for her beauty.
The story actually begins with a flash forward to 1969, when Chase is found dead. Locals immediately suspect the Marsh Girl, and Kya is put on trial for Chase’s murder. The book travels back and forth in time between Kya’s childhood, the trial, and beyond.
Discussion questions - What are your thoughts? Comment below.
Other books you may like
The marsh becomes almost a character in Crawdads. Author Barbara Kingsolver embraces setting to a similar extent in many of her novels; in particular, the region of Appalachia is profoundly impactful in Prodigal Summer and Flight Behavior. The raw, remote beauty of Russia’s Kamchatka peninsula deeply influences the characters in Disappearing Earth, the debut novel of Julia Phillips.
Owens has mentioned that her favorite book character is another strong and independent young woman: Scout from To Kill a Mockingbird. More recently, Tara Westover’s memoir Educated tells the story of a fiercely determined woman who overcomes her family’s dire circumstances.