Where the Crawdads Sing has some serious lasting power. It was published in 2018 and has been sitting on bestseller lists ever since then. Yet despite its popularity, reviews of the book have been quite mixed. The book’s coming of age story is engaging but there has also been a wide variety of reaction to the book, which makes it a good book club pick.
This discussion guide will help you guide your group with Where the Crawdads Sings book club questions and other discussion prompts.
Per our normal format we provide the publisher’s synopsis of the book. This alone makes for a good discussion prompt— is the synopsis accurate? How would you have described the book if you were marketing it?
We also provide 10 discussion prompts for Where the Crawdads Sing along with a mixed slate of reviews that will stimulation conversation.
And if you liked Crawdads, keep scrolling, because we offer up three similar books that you may want to add to your TBR pile.
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Where the Crawdads Sing Synopsis
Where the Crawdads Sing, Delia Owens
For years, rumors of the “Marsh Girl” have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl. But Kya is not what they say. Sensitive and intelligent, she has survived for years alone in the marsh that she calls home, finding friends in the gulls and lessons in the sand.
Then the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. When two young men from town become intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new life–until the unthinkable happens.
Where the Crawdads Sing is at once an exquisite ode to the natural world, a heartbreaking coming-of-age story, and a surprising tale of possible murder. Owens reminds us that we are forever shaped by the children we once were, and that we are all subject to the beautiful and violent secrets that nature keeps.
Where the Crawdads Sing Book Club Questions
- The author Delia Owens has said, “Kya is every little girl and one in a million. Kya is all of us.” Did you identify with Kya? If so, how?
- How is womanhood explored throughout the novel? What does being a woman mean to Kya? How does she relate to the other women in Barkley Cove?
- The townspeople are fairly disparaging of Kya, calling her “The Marsh Girl.” She was soundly bullied at her first day of school, ensuring that she never returned. The town could have taken Kya in and cared for her, but they didn’t. Why was that?
- How likely do you find it that an abused, abandoned six year old could grow up alone in a swamp?
- The book’s format toggles between the murder trial and Kya’s coming of age. Did you like the format?
- “There are some who can live without wild things, and some who cannot.” Clearly Kya cannot. Even after the abandonment of her family and later Tate, she still chose to remain in the swamp. Why do you suppose she made that choice?
- “Female fireflies draw in strange males with dishonest signals and eat them; mantis females devour their own mates. Female insects, Kya thought, know how to deal with their lovers.” How does this revelation affect how Kya chooses to deal with both Tate and Chase?
- Chase didn’t seem to care much for Kya. Indeed, he tried to rape her. And yet, he continued to wear the shell necklace that she made for him. Did he actually care for her?
- Do you believe that Kya killed Chase? Was it justified?
- Nature itself is a major character in the book. According to Owens, “Kya had no one but Nature to teach her about life, and there is no better teacher if we take the time to observe and listen to the wild.” Did you relate to the natural elements in the book.
Some Provocative Reviews of Where the Crawdads Sing
“Normally I would not finish let alone review a book I disliked as much as I did this one, but since I bought the book and am reading it for my book club, I’ve decided to say what I think…” This Good Reads reviewer goes on to complain about: a “marshlands-of-North-Carolina version of Law & Order”, one-dimensional romances, and an inconsistent voice for Kya (swamp rat + poet?). They incited quite a reaction from other Good Reads members.
“Mother Nature has literally become Kya’s caretaker, and deep in a lonely marsh along the North Carolina coast is where Kya will not only hide, but blossom into a primal independent being, coaxed inside the loyal embrace of an indiscriminate wilderness as she embodies its uninhibited spirit.”
“…Because Kya doesn’t act like a person who has been almost entirely isolated. She just acts like a regular loner. Sure, she may have some habits that fit with her strange upbringing, but she seems to understand people and language just like a regular person.”
“…this is one of the most memorable coming-of-age stories I have read in quite some time. It is a story that proves the growth of a person and the cultivation of nature are not mutually exclusive. This book is a celebration of all life, human and mother earth alike.”
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3 Books Like Where the Crawdads Sing
Where the Crawdads Sing was a Reese’s Book Club pic in 2018. If you like her suggestions, check out our other guide for Reese’s picks, which includes recent guides like Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows and Such a Fun Age.
By Tara Westover
In this memoir, Westover doesn’t grow up in a swamp, she grows up in the sticks of Northern Utah. But the themes of abuse, abandonment, resilience and self-education are all there. Westover grew up in a fundamentalist Mormon family with a tyrannical mentally ill father, an inattentive mother and a cruel brother.
She struggles to overcome the odds by educating herself and getting out of Dodge. This book has a well-written narrative arc and lots of feels.
by Jeff Zentner
This novel follows three teens from a small southern town who are just about to graduate from high school. Lydia is going off to college, which is a new beginning for her, but it feels like an ending for her friend Dill. And Travis loses himself in fantasy books in order to escape his abusive father.
You don’t get the swamp with this book. But you do get painful family dynamics, a suffocating small town vibe, and three immensely touching coming of age stories.
By Karen Russell
Want more swamp? Then Russell’s Swamplandia is the perfect next book for you. Ava is a pre-teen struggling to keep things together after her mother dies. The family runs a decrepit gator attraction in the Florida swamp and things are not going well. Ava’s father is AWOL, her older brother disappears for a better paying job and her younger sister has fallen in love with a shadowy creature.
It’s up to Ava do keep bailing the boat even as it inexorably sinks.
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