Kya Clark is a ten-year-old girl who lives in a shabby shack near a small isolated North Carolina coastal marsh. She is smart, resilient and completely alone. Each member of her seven-person family has left home for better opportunities and has left Kya behind. No one in town reaches out, welcomes or helps the young abandoned girl. Instead, Kya is ostracized and openly referred to as “the marsh girl.”
As Kya endures this heartbreak, the estuary becomes her sanctuary, greatest friend and everlasting love. Through exploration, self-education and material collection, Kya turns her rundown cabin into a museum of rare natural treasures native to the marsh.
Eventually, Kya’s lifestyle attracts the attention of two young men from town. Meanwhile, a local man is found dead in the marsh. The sheriff and townsfolk are quick to blame the marsh girl, and the investigation threatens to upend Kya’s quiet way of life. Kya must decide whom to let into her heart and home and how to protect both.
Owens’ descriptions of the marsh are detailed yet not monotonous, written in beautiful prose. Where the Crawdads Sing is a haunting coming-of-age story about a young woman’s struggle against social prejudice, and the fight she must endure to protect her physical space and autonomy.