“When Kya ran to the porch, she saw her mother in a long brown skirt, kick pleats nipping at her ankles, as she walked down the sandy lane in high heels. The stubby-nosed shoes were fake alligator skin. From there she saw the blue train case Ma carried. Usually, with the confidence of a pup, Kya knew her mother would return with meat wrapped in greasy brown paper or with a chicken head dangling down. But she never wore the gator heels, never took a case.”
I’m Betty Martin with "Martin’s Must Reads" and those are lines from the beginning of Delia Owens novel Where the Crawdads Sing. Kya is seven years old when her mother and her brother leave her behind to live with her abusive father on the edge of a swamp. Kya learns to stay out of his way, digs mussels to sell at Jumpin’s Gas and Bait and spends her days exploring the swamp and its estuaries. Her father is gone from home for days, then months at a time, and finally, when Kya is 10, never returns.
After being laughed at her one and only day at school, she keeps to herself until she meets Tate, the son of a local fisherman. He teaches her to read, introduces her to the natural wonders of the swamp and falls in love with her. The chapters of the book alternate between the early 1950’s with Kya’s life and 1969 with the investigation of a man who is found dead under an abandoned water tower in the swamp. The writing is rich with well developed characters and information about our natural world.
If you only read one book this summer, you must read Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens.