Just as a troop of baboons, a herd of elephants, or a pride of lions, human females tend to travel in groups, play, eat and sleep together. There are many benefits of having time in isolation, but how much is too much?

Isolation can change a person, as readers can clearly see in Kya, the protagonist in Delia Owens’ first fiction work, Where the Crawdads Sing (G.P Putnam’s Sons). The character is based on many women the author knows, and we can see how being alone can have major impact on an individual through her story.

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In a recent conversation prior to a speech at the Fairfield (CT) Library, Owens discussed this theme of isolation. She is now divorced from her husband of more than 40 years. They still live together on the same property in Idaho, but it is a huge piece of land so the arrangement is working out fine for now.

Owens talked about the pressure her relationship endured in those years, being so secluded from other humans while they did research, and how the hopes of it repairing itself upon their return went unfulfilled.

The discussion with the author, along with her prepared comments about her research on the social biology of animals, her book, and Kya, makes one wonder about seclusion. Feeling alone is sometimes an ambiguous phrase, everyone has different levels of enjoyment and tolerance when they are solo.

She said she wrote Where the Crawdads Sing in two parts. Part 1 is The Marsh – a beautiful place of light and sparkling water. Part 2 is The Swamp – a dark place. Like Kya, sometimes in our lives we go to The Swamp, but we always strive for the Marsh.

During her presentation at the library, Owens said standing up in front of a room full of women caused her to experience the same feelings she has when being rushed by lions in Africa – a sign that she does not crave crowds and probably feels most peaceful alone and riding horses.

She did mention her house is many miles from civilization and she goes to town once a week to see people when she is at home in Idaho.

The book itself, a love story, mystery and courtroom drama, has all that it takes for a compelling and beautifully rich novel. Just as Owens went way out yonder where the crawdads sing to connect with nature, Kya becomes one with her surroundings.

As each important person in her life abandoned her, Kya learned to be self sufficient and survive alone in the marsh as a very young child. With limited human contact and lack of strong friendships, her natural surroundings became her mother.

She is awkward around other people yet capable and self reliant. She learned all she needed to know to sustain a comfortable life, until her desire for personal connection, touch and love emerged as she grew up. She muddled her way through the hurt of abandonment as she embarked on a new adventure of companionship – but life is complicated.

Now she is a grown woman, and there is a murder in the marsh.  Her isolation over the years influenced her odd behaviors and has made her a target for ridicule and an obvious earmark for blame.  Most of the townspeople are against her – will anyone come to her rescue as she is accused of the unthinkable or will she have to fend for herself as she has done her entire life?

The natural beauty of the marsh, the heartbreak and loneliness of Kya, the suspense and unfolding of the mysterious murder and the love story that beats all odds combines into an emotional, descriptive and addictive, well written novel that made it impossible to put down.

Where the Crawdads Sing is now available to purchase.


Photo courtesy of Dawn Marie Tucker

Delia Owens is the co-author of three internationally bestselling nonfiction books about her life as a wildlife scientist in Africa including Cry of the Kalahari. She has won the John Burroughs Award for Nature Writing and has been published in NatureThe African Journal of Ecology, and many others. She currently lives in Idaho. Where the Crawdads Sing is her first novel.