BOOK REVIEW: WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING

What’s it all about?

Told in two parts, The Marsh and The Swamp, this novel follows the story of Catherine Danielle Clark, nicknamed Kya. At just six years old (in 1952), she sees her mother abandon her and her family. Hopelessly, she waits for her mother to return, but realizes she’s never coming back. One by one, she also sees her older siblings, Missy, Murph, Mandy and Jodie all leave home too because of their father’s drinking and physical abuse.

“If anyone would understand loneliness, the moon would.”

Being the only child left at home, her father briefly gives up drinking and instead turns his attention to bonding with his youngest daughter. He teaches her how to fish and gives her a collection of shells and feathers. Whilst she cannot read or write, she can paint and she enjoys painting the landscapes, birds and coastlines immensely.

“She knew the years of isolation had altered her behavior until she was different from others, but it wasn’t her fault she’d been alone. Most of what she knew, she’d learned from the wild. Nature had nurtured, tutored, and protected her when no one else would.”

One day, she stumbles upon a letter in their mailbox written by her mother. She leaves it on the table for her father to find but when he reads it he is infuriated and burns it immediately. While the fire is going, he also burns her clothes and canvases too. Her father quickly spirals back into alcoholism and also takes long trips out for gambling. One evening, he fails to return home at all, leaving her completely alone and isolated on the marsh. Kya has to learn self-resilience quickly in order to survive on her own. She learns gardening and trading in fresh mussels and smoked fish for money for gas from Jumpin’. Jumpin’, who runs the local gasoline station and ‘five and dime store’, quickly befriends Kya, with Mabel helping to collect clothing donations for her.

Kya faced many prejudices from the people of Barkley Cove throughout her early life. Calling her the ‘Marsh Girl,’ she was laughed at by schoolchildren, called nasty and filthy by the pastor’s wife. The one person who does become friendly with her is Tate Walker. As an old friend of Jodie, he is arguably one of the few nicest people to her. When she gets lost one day, it is Tate who leads her home in his boat.

Time progresses and he starts to leave her feathers from rare birds because he knows she will like them and teacher her how to read and write. The intimacy between the two increases and they have a relationship until Tate leaves for college. He promises to return, yet realises Kya cannot possibly live in this more civilized world because of her wildness and independence. He leaves without saying goodbye, leaving Kya // and //.

Part Two begins with Kya in 1965 when she is 19. Chase Andrews (their star quarterback and playboy) invited her to a picnic where he tries to have sex with her. He later apologizes and the two embark on a relationship together. He takes her to the abandoned fire tower and she gives him a gift of a shell necklace. She doesn’t trust him entirely, although she wants to, but she has doubts. However, she believes that he will marry her so the two consummate their relationship. Unfortunately, whilst shopping for groceries she stumbles across a newspaper where she sees that he is already engaged to another woman. She ends the relationship, leaving her a tarnished woman.

“Female fireflies draw in strange males with dishonest signals and eat them; mantis females devour their own mates. Female insects, Kya thought, know how to deal with their lovers.”

Meanwhile, Tate returns from college having since graduated and apologizes relentless for leaving her. He confesses his love for her but Kya, still hurting from his actions and her previous revelation, rejects him. What she does do, however, is allowed him inside her shack and he is impressed by her collected, now much expanded, of seashells.

He persuades her to publish a reference book on seashells. At the age of 22, she achieves this and publishes her own book on seashells and then in seabirds. Following the success of this and the royalties she hires someone to install running water, a water heater, tub, sink, flushing toilets and kitchen cabinets. She also orders soft furnishings to make her place more homely.

Jodie also returns expressing regret that he too, left her. He also tells her that their mother suffered from mental illness and died two years ago from leukemia.

“Go as far as you can—way out yonder where the crawdads sing.”

Chase also makes an appearance but ends up as an argument where Kya is attacked. He beats her and attempts to rape her. Kya manages to defend herself and manages to escape. Two men witness the attack too… Kya knows that reporting will be futile because everyone will naturally blame her. She decides to leave it.

Kya has the opportunity to meet her publisher in Greenville and gracefully accepts. Whilst she’s away, Chase is found dead beneath the fire tower. The sheriff, Ed Jackson, believes it to be a murder on the basis of having no tracks or fingerprints. To make matters more complicated, the statements he receives are all conflicting too. One thing he does learn is that the shell necklace he was wearing the night before was no longer on his body. Evidence does seem to pin Kya there but is it to be believed?

There’s a trial. There’s a verdict. Lives continue to be lived. By the end of the novel, Kya is with Tate in a loving relationship knowing that they were the ones for each other. Kya passes away at 64 in her boat leaving behind a wealth of secrets and stories.

“Some parts of us will always be what we were, what we had to be to survive…”

FINAL THOUGHTS:

I loved this book so, so much. Although it did have a slower start, I was drawn in with the story line from the very beginning. This is a book I’ll be recommending to friends and family as well. It absolutely deserves the accolades it received and is a stunning read.

XO,

2021 BOOK LIST

Every New Year is filled with the promise of new beginnings – a chance to start over, to become our best selves.  But this year feels bigger. It’s as if the entire planet is impatient to heal – cautiously optimistic of the change that lies ahead.

When I look at the books that stuck with me from 2020, they’re stories that forced me to deepen my understanding of big issues that shape our world, from health to wealth, from identity to leadership.  A few of these books have already changed how I lead my life. All of them helped me gain a new perspective. 

Long-form reading demands something from us – patience, openness to new ideas and even resilience to distraction. As we grapple with a year when we try to figure out what “normal” looks like, these lessons will be more valuable than ever.

Here are a few books that I plan to read (or reread) in the new year. I hope at least a few of them help you in 2021. Happy reading!

WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING

The story follows two timelines that slowly intertwine. The first timeline describes the life and adventures of a young girl named Kya as she grows up isolated in the marsh of North Carolina from 1952–1969. The second timeline follows a murder investigation of Chase Andrews, a local celebrity of Barkley Cove, a fictional coastal town of North Carolina.

Read it here.

GRACE WILL LEAD US HOME

Four years after the racially motivated murders of nine African-American parishioners at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina on June 17, 2015, a new book by Charleston Post and Courier reporter Jennifer Berry Hawes explores the aftermath of the killings and the extraordinary narrative of grace and forgiveness it produced.

Read it here.

EDUCATION: A MEMOIR

In “Educated,” Westover recounts overcoming her survivalist Mormon family in order to go to college, and emphasizes the importance of education to enlarging her world. She details her journey from her isolated life in the mountains of Idaho to completing a PhD program in history at Cambridge University. She started college at the age of seventeen after having had no formal education, and her book explores her struggle to reconcile her desire to learn with the radical world she inhabited with her father.

Read it here.

AMERICAN DIRT

This book documents the brutally tough journey of a Mexican mother and her son who are forced to walk to the United States after a cartel murders the rest of their family. How far would I go to save their lives? Would I make the same sacrifices? And of course, the answer is “yes.” This is a beautifully written, engaging story that gives you enormous empathy for the millions of people who are forced to emigrate from their homes each year.

This book has sparked impassioned conversations about cultural appropriation, about who gets to write which stories in the realm of fiction, and how represented communities should respond. My wish is that there be more opportunities for these types of stories to be told by those with first-hand experience. It’s why in our work at Worldreader, we support local authors and publishers – so they can bring their unique experiences to life in the most authentic and honest way.

American Dirt was also a part of Oprah’s Book Club. (swoon)

Read it here.

LITTLE FIRES EVERYWHERE

This is more of a “fun” read, but I am so excited to get my hands on this book!

Little Fires Everywhere is a 2017 novel by American author Celeste Ng. It is her second novel and takes place in Shaker Heights, Ohio, where Ng actually grew up. The novel is about two families living in 1990s Shaker Heights who are brought together through their children. The author described writing about her hometown as “a little bit like writing about a relative. You see all of the great things about them, you love them dearly, and yet, you also know all of their quirks and their foibles.”

As of 2019, Little Fires Everywhere was also made into a Hulu original series!

Read it here.

THE RED RIBBON

In Carroll County, a corn shucking is the social event of the season, until a mischievous kiss leads to one of the biggest tragedies in Virginia history. Ava Burcham isn’t your typical Blue Ridge Mountain girl. She has a bad habit of courtin’ trouble, and her curiosity has opened a rift in the middle of a feud between politicians and would-be outlaws, the Allen family. Ava’s tenacious desire to find a story worth reporting may land her and her best friend, Jeremiah Sutphin, into more trouble than either of them planned.

​The end result? The Hillsville Courthouse Massacre of 1912.

The author, Pepper Basham, is also a local author here in the Asheville area so that is super neat! Make sure to check her other books out!

Read it here.

If you have any other reading suggestions for me, please drop them in the comments below! I would love nothing more than to hear from you all!

XO,

CONNECT ON SOCIAL MEDIA:

REVIEW: THE TURN OF THE KEY

AUTHOR: Ruth Ware
GENRE: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense, Psychological Thriller, Psychological Fiction
# OF PAGES: 352
STARS: ⭑⭑⭑⭑

From the minute I picked up this book, I was instantly hooked. My husband originally me the ‘Woman in Cabin 10’ for my birthday last year and getting me hooked with Ruth Ware was the best and worst mistake he’s made.

Ruth Ware’s latest suspense novel has a lot to measure up to. Its predecessor, “The Death of Mrs. Westaway,” was one of the best mystery novels of 2018, brilliantly repurposing just about every cobwebby prop in the Gothic warehouse, including a disputed inheritance, a crumbling ancestral mansion and a terrified-but-plucky young heroine. Ware sets expectations even higher by burdening her new novel with a brazen title: “The Turn of the Key.” What kind of suspense writer would be so reckless as to invoke Henry James’s masterpiece of terror and ambiguity and expect to see her own work do anything but suffer in the comparison?

We readers know that 27-year-old governess Rowan Caine is in torment from the very first pages. Ware introduces her through a series of letters she’s writing to a renowned barrister from the prison cell where she’s languishing. Rowan has been charged with the murder of one of the four children who’d been under her care. Rowan’s story unfolds in halting fashion through these letters, in which she describes how she came to take the position at Heatherbrae House in the remote Scottish Highlands and how things turned ghastly as soon as her employers — a posh couple with their own architecture practice — depart the premises to attend a faraway trade show

As the story unfolds, we see that Rowan is not who she originally says she is and is constantly finding herself feeling like she has to watch over her shoulder. In a modern meets Victorian house, she discovers secrets in this house and feels like something or someone is out to get her. Over the course of this suspense novel, Rowan gets involved in a predicament which ultimately ends her up in jail.

If you are into suspense fiction, buy this book immediately. You will find yourself hung on every word until you are regretting reading it too quickly. I was dying to know what happened next and finished this book in the matter of just a few days. I was NOT expecting it to end in the way it did, but was pleasantly (poor choice of wording?) surprised.

What are you currently reading? What genres are you typically drawn to? Let’s chat in the comments!

XO,

CONNECT ON SOCIAL MEDIA:

REVIEW: The Lying Game

Genre: Mystery / Thriller
Rating: ✰✰✰


NO SPOILERS HERE!

From the New York Times bestselling author of “In a Dark, Dark Wood” and “The Woman in Cabin 10,” Ruth Ware’s “The Lying Game” is a book full of twists and turns that leave you wanting more.

My husband originally bought me Ware’s “The Woman in Cabin 10” as a birthday gift last year and I was immediately hooked with the cover to cover suspense. Between Ware’s writing style, I knew was in for a treat when reading the rest of her books. I am a sucker for a good suspense novel, so I knew “The Lying Game” would be right up my alley.

From the minute I picked up this book, I was instantly hooked. Any break I had after work or during my days off, I found myself curled up with this book dying to find out what happened next. Although “The Lying Game” holds slower pace than most of her other books, it is still definitely a must-read!

THE LYING GAME reads like a grown-up version of the hit TV show Pretty Little Liars (a personal favorite of mine in college). Readers meet four friends: Isa (our narrator), Kate, Fatima, and Thea. The girls all attend the same boarding school, Salten, and instantly become best friends. Kate was the free-will teenager, Fatima the smart and cautious friend, Isa the reserved level-head and Thea the rebel.

During their time together at Salten, the four girls created their own “lying game.” The rules of the lying game are clear: no lying to each other ever. Bail on the lie when it becomes clear it is about to be found out.

During their time at boarding school, this group thick as thieves always find themselves back at Kate’s house every weekend. They constantly check themselves out of school and dredge through fields and mud to that beloved house on the water. There, they fall in love with the reach and Kate’s dad, who treats them like his own. They are also introduced to Luc, who is like a brother to Kate and Ambrose’s other child.

After being expelled during their senior year due to the mysterious nature surrounding the death of the school’s art teacher and Kate’s dad, Ambrose, the girls slowly drift apart and live their separate lives. Although they go their separate ways, the four girls vow to keep this deadly secret between themselves at all costs.

As this story unravels, you learn that the three girls secretly deal with this notion that Kate killed her own father, but are constantly grappling with what her motive could’ve been.

After seventeen years apart, a text message arrives in the wee hours of the morning: I need you. Dropping everything and rushing back to the house at the Reach, the three girls come to Kate’s aid and try to put together pieces of the puzzle in what really happened to Ambrose.

Through their journey back together, they find answers that they never saw coming.

Do yourself a favor and check this book out, or any of Ruth Ware’s for that matter. You’re in for a real treat.

Thanks for stopping by!
Alex in Asheville