After writing a pretty straight-forward review of Where the Crawdads Sing earlier this week, I was feeling conflicted. I felt like I didn’t accurately express exactly how much this book means to me. So, I’m giving this another go and expanding upon my review by writing more deeply about why this book struck me the way it did.
WARNING: This post contains a lot of spoilers.
Reading this book, one set almost entirely outdoors, during COVID-19 when I’ve mostly been cooped up in my apartment, was an escape. It transported me to a remote world filled with nature, water, animals, and beauty. This summer has made me realize how much I want that for myself. I grew up in the woods in a rural part of New Hampshire and I never thought I’d want to live like that as an adult, but here I am desperately craving a home in the middle of nowhere.
Like Kya, I want a private space to return to at the end of the day and a quiet, soft place to wake up in. I want to open my back door and feel the breeze and the fresh air and smell the woodiness around me. I want to see green everywhere I look. I don’t want to see my neighbors’ houses. I don’t want to hear honking cars and screaming fire trucks. I want a secret spot.
Reading about Kya also makes me want to live more simply. I don’t want to buy cheap knick knacks at Target that mean nothing to me. I don’t want a home filled with clutter. I often buy things I don’t need so I can feel some type of quick fulfillment. Like, if I buy this cute thing my home will look perfect and I’ll finally feel happy and satisfied. That’s never worked. I want to learn to be happy with what I have (both materially and otherwise) and become more resourceful with what I already own.
Where the Crawdads Sing helped me slow down and look at myself—who I am and what I want. Kya is one of the greatest literary heroines I’ve ever read and I think she’ll go down in history as one of the best. One of the things about her that resonates with me is how she feels her feelings and expresses herself. When she’s angry she stands by the water and screams. When she finds joy, she shows it. When she’s jealous, she looks inward and questions it. Kya doesn’t stand for gaslighting. I need to take some of this strength for myself. Growing up I was often called sensitive or dramatic for expressing my sadness, fear, or anger. I was always told I was overreacting. I was made to doubt myself and because of that, I’ve stayed quiet when I shouldn’t have.
I’m glad Kya was the one who killed Chase Andrews. I don’t think this makes her a bad person at all. She gave herself the justice that society never would, that society rarely gives women who have been attacked, assaulted, or abused. Kya took control and fought back—not like Chase who used physical force fueled by entitlement and toxic masculinity, but by using her resourcefulness and knowledge of the marsh to her advantage. Everyone underestimated her and called her stupid, and in the end it was her cleverness and attention to detail that allowed her to pull off the murder and get away with it. People thought she was an animal so she thought like one, like an unassuming firefly, to kill one of the town’s most beloved golden boys.
The fact that she does get away with it is so powerful. In some ways she held this secret all her life, but in another way, I think being found not guilty allowed her to be free, and free of guilt. She was able to live an autonomous life where she found love, happiness, and success. Her life may not have turned out that way if Chase hadn’t died. A man with an ego that large wouldn’t have let it. Killing Chase allowed Kya to live without fear for the first time in her life.
I read once that in court there are the facts and there’s the truth. The truth doesn’t matter as long as you can prove the facts. The thing is, the prosecution got the facts right, they just couldn’t prove it. So the truth won out—Kya wasn’t guilty of anything. The real truth is that she protected herself, a fact that no one would have believed.
So, the next time I feel scared, angry, or sad, I’m going to show it. I’m not going to hide. I’m going to think of Kya and look inside myself, trusting that I’ll already know the answer.
You can buy Where the Crawdads Sing at your local bookstore or online at Bookshop.org!
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