Corsair Books January 2020 (Paperback)
For years, rumours 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.
Firstly huge thanks to the publisher for the gifted copy of this book, which I have seen talked about everywhere… and so have been keen to read for a while. This book starts off slow, a lost child, essentially abandoned by those who should be caring for her and neglected and ignored by most others. Living alone in the marshes, fending for herself with the support of a few kind hearted locals.
Set in the 60s in North Carolina, racism is the norm and segregation is in place. Views are narrow and Kya is the victim of prejudice and discrimination. That said the relationships she forms, ones that cross these divides are heart warming and special. Kya is the Marsh Girl and a label ascribed to her which on the surface seems derogatory becomes who she is as she matures, with a wealth of knowledge and insight into the marshlands that are her home.
How best to describe this book? Well it is a compelling read – the story of an outcast, much of the story is of her life, but alongside this is the investigation into the suspicious death of enigmatic local boy Chase Andrews. Told in a then and now format the story begins when Kya is seven, the death of Chase occurs in the marshes when Kya is in her 20s and the finger of blame is swiftly pointed in her direction. So we accompany her through the investigation, while maintaining the then and now format, the story unfolds revealing Kya’s contact with locals including with the deceased Chase Andrews.
An important aspect of this book is Kya’s life in the marshes, her love of the wildlife and the tangible depictions of her environment. The writing is beautiful and the author’s background in Nature Writing is evident. The film rights have been bought and Reese Witherspoon will be producing this film. I must say I am slightly apprehensive to see how these characters and this world can be bought to life on the big screen, but we will see. A strength of this book is how it captivates the imagination and I hope the movie does it justice.
A well hyped book, but justified I think, it did start slow and I thought it may be another book of a feral child living in the wilderness – there have been a few recently… But this wasn’t that book, it was so much more, about socialisation and belonging, love – in many forms and loss, injustice and being safe. And it was about a special world that a lost girl made her own. Definitely recommended by me.
About the Author
Delia Owens is the co-author of three internationally bestselling nonfiction books abuot her life as a wildlife scientist in Africa including Cry of the Kalahari. She has won the John Burroughs Award for Nature Writing and has been published in Nature, The African Journal of Ecology, and many others. She currently lives in Idaho. Where the Crawdads Sing is her first novel.