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The Toronto book club I’ve been attending for roughly twenty years discussed Delia Owens’s Where the Crawdads Sing recently. In advance, our moderator circulated a New Yorker magazine article about the wildlife efforts of Delia Owens and her husband Mark Owens in Africa and the huge controversy that arose when one of the major news organizations was filming a documentary about them and a poacher was killed. There was some suggestion (unproven) that Mark Owens’s son might have killed the poacher.

This article offers an intriguing view of Delia’s unusual life in the wild and her relationship with her then husband and there was much speculation at book club on how her work in Africa affected Where the Crawdads Sing.

We usually begin by asking each person whether they liked the book – and in the case, everyone said they enjoyed it, although most offered a caveat or two.

What is it about the story that so many readers have found compelling? Goodreads has over 440K ratings of the novel averaging 4.5 out of 5. Our group felt that the sections of the novel dealing with Kya’s marsh world were the most compelling and that this portion of Owens’s writing is superb. Perhaps that’s because she’s written three earlier non-fiction works about natural settings.

Do the two timelines work? Here we had reservations. Most said they found the murder investigation and trial bland and not written nearly as well as early timeline chronicling Kya’s growing up. The group expressed admiration for the deep understanding of Kya’s inner life as portrayed in the earlier timeline and disappointment that the story lost Kya’s voice/inner monologue and the richer understanding of her motivations that would have come from that in the other timeline.

Why are readers drawn to Kya as a character? Because she’s alone and vulnerable, because she demonstrates strength and determination, because she cares deeply for the natural world.

Will there be a movie version? A resounding yes. Apparently Reese Witherspoon has already bought the film rights. Some felt that Delia Owens crafted the story deliberately with a movie in mind.

Was the story plausible? Could a little girl of seven really look after herself the way Kya did? Could Kya learn to read and educate herself so completely? Was the ending plausible? We debated each of these.

If you’re interested in an interview with Delia Owen, you can check this article from BookPage.

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens ~~ For years, rumors of the “Marsh Girl” have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl. But Kya is not what they say. Sensitive and intelligent, she has survived for years alone in the marsh that she calls home, finding friends in the gulls and lessons in the sand. Then the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. When two young men from town become intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new life–until the unthinkable happens.

Perfect for fans of Barbara Kingsolver and Karen Russell, Where the Crawdads Sing is at once an exquisite ode to the natural world, a heartbreaking coming-of-age story, and a surprising tale of possible murder. Owens reminds us that we are forever shaped by the children we once were, and that we are all subject to the beautiful and violent secrets that nature keeps.

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M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from Amazon, NookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.