“Where the Crawdads Sing” – Delia Owens (2/5 ★)

4 reasons why “Where the Crawdads Sing” isn’t as amazing as the huge hype around it is suggesting.

  • 1. First things first, why the 2/5 ★ rating? I didn’t necessarily hate the book but all in all, I didn’t particularly enjoy it either. It took me two full weeks to finish it & even though I read it during a busy period, it simply didn’t manage to captivate my interest enough to motivate me to make more space for reading on a daily basis. Yes, there were a couple of beautiful parts, a couple of sentences that reminded me of Ocean Vuong’s style (who has become my ultimate favourite author after just a single book 😀 ). But that’s where it ends in this case, with just those couple of masterfully written sentences. The rest tends to drag on stylistically, while ending up repetitive. The main character felt flat, vindictive & not wiling to learn from her mistakes or let the past go. I also had a similar problem as in “Little Fires Everywhere” (which I recently read), where the story was circling a bit too much around the coming of age topic & teenagerhood. To nevertheless start on a positive note, here a couple of my favourite quotes to show the enjoyable moments within the book:

“Above the roar of the pounding waves, Kya called to the birds, The ocean sang bass, the gulls sang soprano. Shrieking and crying, they circled over the marsh and above the sand […].” (p. 31)

“At late day, the sun sighed, fading to the color of butter, and they may not have noticed but their own shoulders finally rounded and their necks slacked.” (p. 55)

“They went out in the boat again the next day, and in a dark lagoon, Kya spotted the soft breast feathers of a great horned owl floating on the surface. Each curled at both ends, so that they drifted around like tiny orange boats.” (p. 56)

  • 2. To me, it gave off a strong vibe of being a debut novel. I felt like it could have been edited better since it didn’t have a fluid flow to it. The general style is quite slow, with a lot of descriptions about nature and animals, whereas the around 70 page ending (out of the total of 370 pages) felt way too rushed. It’s actually the ending that ruined the general impression of the book for me. It felt like the editor arrived saying, “Well, this is quite a cute book, but it’s reeeeally slow, so to reward our readers, we need to throw in some action & drama in the end, could you add that on please?” I keep comparing it to “Little Fires Everywhere” because that’s the last novel I read before this one but what I was missing here, was some more polishing work, to make the novel feel well-rounded. The ending felt too rushed, as if the author was hurrying up to meet a deadline and the characters were quite flat. It’s very evident that the author’s forte were the descriptions of nature, since this is the main writing experience she has had from multiple already published non-fiction books. The quote below underlines that beautifully:

“The marsh’s soft air fell silklike around her shoulders. The moonlight chose an unexpected path through the pines, laying shadows about in rhymes. She strolled like a sleepwalker as the moon pulled herself naked from the waters and climbed limb by limb through the oaks. The slick mud of the lagoon shore glowed in the intense light, and hundreds of fireflies dotted the woods.” (p. 157)

  • 3. I did not appreciate all the thrown in poems (that’s a mild way of saying that they actually annoyed the hell out of me). This is a really subjective opinion since I’m not a poem fan myself in general but there’s an objective part to it, which is the way they were literally thrown into the story. There was no grace in the way that they way were intertwined with the main storyline and they rather felt like a foreign body forced into the book. When you additionally find out the background story about them in the end, they make even less sense to be mentioned that way! In the quote below is an illustration of the countless amount of times a poem has been introduced with an awkward sentence:

“Speaking out loud, she recited an Amanda Hamilton poem [.]” (p. 212)

“Later, wandering her beach, she recited her favorite Amanda Hamilton poem.” (p. 213) – this is literally on the FOLLOWING page. We got it, she’s her favorite poet, no need to repeat that a hundred times…

“At sundown, calmer, heart back in place, Kya stood on the beach, and recited: […] A. H.” (p. 249)

“Standing on the crate, craning her neck toward the marsh, she recalled an Amanda Hamilton poem [.]” (p. 276)

  • 4. The dialogues often felt trivial, which amplified the lack of facets of the main character, as well as her hardly existent development. It got frustrating by the end how much she sounded like a broken record. Yes, she got abandoned by a lot of people in her life, but reading it repeated over & over again lacks some subtlety from the author’s side. In the quote below one such instance that comes up a myriad times is described:

“He waited for her to walk to him, then took her shoulders and held her against his chest. Then pushed back.
‘I love you, Kya, you know that. You’ve known it for a long time.’
‘I will never leave you again.’
‘You left me like all the others,’ she said.”
(p. 357)

All in all I’d say that this is a book that hasn’t measured up to the standards of its hype. I guess I understand why it has been picked as one of the monthly books for Reese Witherspoon’s Book Club since it seems to have great potential to be adapted into a movie. Nevertheless, I’d suggest you to skip reading this one. I read it out of curiosity, to find out what everyone was talking about but was rather disappointed due to my high expectations.

★★☆☆☆ (2/5)

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