”Out Where the Crawdads Sing,” by Delia Owens, G.P. Putnam, 2018, 304 pages

Kya’s mother has endured her father’s abuse of herself and her children, but she walks away one day and 7-year-old Kya never stops watching for her to return. Soon all her brothers and sisters abandon her to the whims of her abusive father.

The little girl thought she knew how to fix grits, she’d watched Ma cook them. She threw them into boiling water like Ma had done, but they lumped together into one big ball that burned on the bottom and stayed raw in the middle. The grits were so rubbery, she could only eat a few bites, then she fed them to the gulls. No matter how hard she stirred, they lumped up some, but she boiled them with collard greens into a mush that tasted fine.

Barkley Cove is a town on the North Carolina outer banks. Kya is known as the Marsh Girl, but she’s not what they claim. She’s sensitive and smart, and survives for years with the gulls and learns everything about the swamp ecology.

Tate notices the girl fishing and digging for mussels and makes friends. When he realizes she cannot read, he teaches her ways of the town, how to become more like the civilized town. The Piggly Wiggly grocery clerk teaches her how to count money, but most of the inhabitants avoid the Marsh Girl as rumors abound for years.

The popular football hero is attracted to the beautiful, wild teen and seduces her, but marries another. When he’s found dead, naturally she’s suspected. Tate has left for college and can’t help her and no one else except Jumpin’ and Mabel, a poor black family, care about her.

Then the time happens when she yearns to be touched and loved. Two young men become intrigued by her wild beauty and affect her life. They teach her good and bad. Kya unwraps herself to a new life until the unthinkable happens.

A story of survival and nature with such a poetic, flowing style, the characters are developed with a human touch. The plot is lovely with a sentimental feel.

The reader will be impressed by the strength Kya uses to deal with her situation. A coming of age story with lots of nature in the swamps. A new Southern novel.

JoAn Watson Martin is an educator.

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