“There are some who can live without wild things, and some who cannot.”

On August 20th, the Central Library Brown Baggers book group met virtually to discuss Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens.

This book tells the story of Kya Clark, called the ‘Marsh Girl’ by the small town of Barkley Cove, North Carolina. She has survived most of her life out in the marsh, after escaping an untenable family situation. But Kya’s attempts to get closer to other people comes to an unthinkable climax when popular local Chase Andrews is found dead, and she is implicated as the primary suspect. This story manages to encompass the vibrant, detailed life of a naturalist, a heartbreaking coming-of-age story, and the court drama of a murder mystery.

With a record-breaking turnout for their digital meetings, there was lots of lively discussion for the Brown Baggers. As a whole, the Brown Baggers had mixed reactions to  this book. Although most agreed it was a worthwhile read, many questioned if its fame and accolades had swollen their expectations beyond what the title could actually deliver. Several found parts of the book to be over-dramatic, bordering on melodrama, especially the court scenes.

There was much discussion of the heartbreaking angle of child abandonment and abuse, which led to discussions of prejudice and interpersonal violence that harked back to previous book discussions from earlier in the year. The character of Kya was critiqued at length, with many Brown Baggers pointing out that she was a prime target for an abusive predator, after her years of loneliness and mistrust, and that a real friendship or support system may have saved her from the further abuse she endured.

Overall, opinions were mixed on almost all elements, but many said it was a gripping enough story that they could not help but finish it, despite misgivings about certain elements.

The Brown Baggers will meet again virtually on Thursday, September 17th, to discuss The Testaments by Margaret Atwood, sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale, which the Brown Baggers read back in September 2018. Please email kfarrell@jmrl.org for details on how to participate from your computer or phone.

Books mentioned:

Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate

LaRose by Louise Erdrich

A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold

The Water is Wide by Pat Conroy

Educated by Tara Westover

Sold on a Monday by Kristina McMorris


New York Times: The Long Tale of ‘Where the Crawdads Sing’ – Alexandra Alter

What is Behavioral Ecology

Learn More about Behavioral Ecology

Where the Crawdads Sing Book Club Guide (includes interview with the author)

The New Yorker – The Hunted – Jeffrey Goldberg (includes information about the poaching stepsons)

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