Where the Crawdads Sing was probably one of my favorites that we have chosen. It was a long book for a short month, but we did it! I have seen the buzz around the internet and wondered if it was really as good as everyone has said. In my personal opinion it totally is. It was a movie story, inspiring and intriguing until the very last page.
To give you a synopsis… Kya was a marsh girl who was slowly abandoned by everyone around her, leaving her alone to figure out how to take care of herself, to learn about life in general and to support herself. She learns a lot along the way with help from Tate, a nice young boy. She makes some great decisions and some not so great decisions along the way. She meets another boy Chase, and later is accused of his murder. The story turns from a coming of age story to a bit of a murder mystery. You’ll just have to read to find out what happens.
Mackenzie Parks from our book club chose this title, so I’m going to let her answer some of the book club questions for you. These book club questions come from Delia Owens herself, and I also found a book club kit on her website if you are hosting your own book club. It features these questions as well as recipes and a conversation with the author herself!
1.The North Carolina marsh where Kya lives has long been a sanctuary for outsiders. How does this setting shape the novel? How does growing up in this isolation affect Kya? In what ways does her status as an “outsider” change how others see her?
The Marsh being a sanctuary for outsiders sets the tone that while she is isolated she has a community within the other outsiders. Kya grew up almost feral. She knew how to care for herself but outside of Jumpin’ she doesn’t really know how to interact with other people. Or do other people not know how to interact with her? The people of Barkley Cove definitely treat her as lower class for being the “Marsh Girl” but all of the other “outsiders” see her as one of their own and do what they can to help her.
2. Kya often watches the other young people from town — she even nicknames them “Tallskinnyblonde, Ponytailfreckleface, Shortblackhair, Alwayswearspearls, and Roundchubbycheeks” (p.80). What does Kya learn from observing these girls? Why do you think she keeps her watching secret? Do you agree with Kya’s secrecy?
I think Kya learns just how different she is from them. The way they carry themselves, the things they talk about, she can’t relate to them. I think she keeps watching them in secret because she knows they would treat her poorly if they found out. They would make fun of her and ridicule her for “lurking in the shadows”. More confirmation to them that she deserves the moniker “Marsh Girl”. I do agree with Kya’s secrecy. Had she approached them it would not have ended well for Kya. Even though Kya needed, and was desperate for, community, those girls would not have been that for Kya. They would have only shot her down and made her feel worse.
3. Discuss Kya’s relationship with Tate. How does Tate’s understanding of Kya change over time? Is Tate a good partner for Kya? Why or why not?
Tate was the best thing that ever happened to Kya. He was so nurturing and truly wanted what was best for her. Tate always knew she was different. He loved her for it! But when he came back after college and saw just how different she was (her “feral” reaction to a stranger approaching, hiding behind the boat) scared him away. As much as he loved her, he wasn’t able to handle just how different she was at the time. He had never seen that side of her before and it was too much for him. I think Tate is a great partner for her. Even though he abandoned her, just like everyone else in her life, he eventually came back. He gave her a reason why he left (too late, but still) and he continually proved he cared for her even when she was pushing him away.
4. Discuss how Kya’s observations of nature shape her vision of the world. Do you think these lessons adequately prepare her for life in Barkley Cove? Do you think human society follows the same rules as the natural world? Should it? Why or why not?
Kya uses nature as her teacher since she lacked formal schooling and adults in her life (ex: momma animals leaving their kin if they are sick themselves, fireflies changing signals to attract different mates). I think the lesson she learns/utilizes the most is that she only goes into groups as little as possible. She gets in and out of town as quickly as possible, talking to as few people as possible. I think some of the rules are the same. Her mom left because she couldn’t adequately care for herself of her children, self-preservation. Chase changed his “signals” to attract Kya vs. “alwayswearspearls”. I think there are some things human society can take from the natural world (sharing resources within packs, taking/using only what you need, etc) but there are also things we should not take (killing sick members of the pack, having a “kill or be killed” mentality, etc.). There are things that occur in nature that would make us better if we emulated them, but there are also many things that we have evolved beyond and don’t need to regress back to.
5. Is Chase a different kind of man than Tate? How are they different? Is one man better? Do you think that their differences are biological or learned? How does Kya see each man?
100% Chase is a different kind of man. I think he did have genuine feelings for Kya of some kind, why else would he have stayed for over a year? But his reasons for being with Kya were never with Kya in mind whereas Tate was with her because he genuinely loved her and wanted what was best for her. I would say Tate is (obviously) better than Chase. Not only was Chase unfaithful to Kya, he was unfaithful to his fiancé/wife. He lied to his friends and parents and hid everything about his relationships with Kya. I think their differences are both biological. Chase had the body/ability to become “the greatest quarterback Barkley Cove had ever seen” whereas Tate seemed to be more slight. However, that seemed to be the only thing Chase’s parents cared about – him being the best. Whereas Tate’s dad listened to music, talked about the importance of poetry, and told Tate it was okay to cry. When he found out about Kya he only told Tate to be careful, not that they shouldn’t be together. I think Kya sees them as the same for a long time. She doesn’t really see the difference until later because she was so bitter towards Tate for leaving for so long. I think it takes until she catches Chase in town with his arm around another girl that she starts to see they are different.
If you have anything to add, please leave it in the comments below! We would love to hear from you!