I’ve cried at the end of a novel twice in my adult life. The first time was when I finished Stephen King’s 11/22/63. The second was when I read the final scenes of Delia Owens’ breakout debut Where the Crawdads Sing.
The novel is a bit of everything. It’s literary fiction, to be sure, with prose and poetry that sings like her titular crustaceans. It’s also a story about nature. It’s a story of survival and solitude.
What drew me in, naturally, is that it’s a crime story. And a top-notch one, at that.
The novel, which has been at the top of the New York Times Hardcover Fiction Bestseller list for more months than it’s taking for my friend to have her baby, is a frame story with the murder of a small-town Carolina shore hero at its center.
But along the way, we learn how Kya was abandoned in the shack and came to be known as The Marsh Girl.
The final act is a legal thriller, which I was recently told at ThrillerFest is dead (apparently something’s always dead at these conventions), but Owens does her best to rusticate the genre with her closing argument.
By the time I got to the end, I was so invested in Kya, her love story with the good-guy Tate (despite his early cowardice), and her growing career as a naturalist author/artist, knowing whether she goes to jail nearly gave me paper cuts.
I knew how I would end it (isn’t that always the game for mystery/thriller readers and writers), and Ms. Owens and I agreed, but getting there was so joyful I would’ve been just as happy if it’d went the other way.
Where the Crawdads Sing is still available in hardcover wherever you buy your books, and online in those same locations. If you’re one of the dozen or so people who’ve yet to read this novel, I recommend it, no matter what kind of fiction typically read.