Student reflects on Where the Crawdads Sing film and how the novel and film work together


The Where the Crawdads Sing novel has grown extremely popular in the last couple of months due to the thrilling film that came out in July. 

The mystery novel written by Delia Owens follows the coming-of-age story of a young girl, Kya Clark. Kya grows up after her family abandons her and discovers a love for nature and the swamp that surrounds her. With the plot being set in the Outer Banks of North Carolina in the 1950s and 60s, Kya faces many hardships trying to survive as a young girl on her own. Most of the story focuses on her ability to love after her family abandoned her so young. The audience is taken on a journey with Kya to find her happiness. Along the way, love interests are introduced, and Kya adapts to the new life she has to live. The plot takes a sharp turn, however, when Kya’s primary love interest Chase Andrews is reported dead and she becomes the main suspect. 

Kya’s life turns into a constant fight between her, Chase’s parents, law enforcement, and her own morality. But Kya was used to this kind of humiliation that she faced because, for her whole life, everyone called her the “marsh girl” because she was an outsider who lived in the marsh instead of the nice neighborhoods of Barkley Cove. Her only saving grace are her many drawings and nature knick-knacks that she collects. Kya is then taken to trial with a lawyer she doesn’t even know, hoping for the best. 

Kya was always perceived as a poor, “marsh girl” to the rest of her small town. When the trial comes up, everyone judges her and assumes that she killed Chase. The main idea behind this is rather cliche: never judge a book by its cover. Even though all of Barkley Cove judged her, Kya still continued on through her life, becoming stronger than ever. 

The book was originally published in August of 2018, so it is safe to say that super fans of the book were yearning for the movie to be released. The book gained immense popularity when it was put on Barnes and Noble’s Reese Witherspoon Book Club table and the film made over 127 million dollars in theaters. It is now available for streaming on Amazon Prime Video and Google Play. Since its release, the novel climbed to the top spot on USA Today’s List in 2019. The book continued to skyrocket in 2020 with over 1,132,973 copies sold, and then in 2021 as well, and is now named The New York Times No.1 best seller in 2022

Where the Crawdads Sing was Delia Owens’ first novel. Growing up in Georgia, Owens was used to this kind of Southern life. Actress Reese Witherspoon produced the movie working with Owens. Witherspoon grew up in Tennessee and can relate to the commonality of that southern lifestyle. Along with the newer actress, the three made the film truly admirable. 

Daisy Edgar-Jones (Kya Clark), is a relatively newer actress who has been on Hulu’s Normal People and more recently, Under the Banner of Heaven. The young actress fit the role perfectly in my opinion. She was quiet and sweet yet strong at the same time. 

The film and novel both focus on the challenges Kya has to face as a young woman. For women around the world, it can be very empowering to see a story like this one. The forced maturation that Kya has to go through highlights the difficulties of growing up – especially as a young woman- all alone. Kya had no mother figure growing up to guide her through life. After her father leaves her all alone for good, Kya adopts a new father-like figure, Jumpin’. Jumpin’ and his wife Mabel owned the goods store near her house and quickly filled in the family presence when everyone left her. I think that it is beneficial to see a young woman overcome her struggles all alone sometimes. 

Contrasting the book, the film bounces between past and present, showing Kya’s upbringing. The movie follows the exact same plot as the book however, and displays all of the hard parts to read like abuse and rape. While the movie is easier to understand if you have read the book before, it still makes sense and can have the same effect even if you didn’t dread the novel. Seeing the pages finally come to life after reading the book was ultimately satisfying, to say the least. 

The plot focuses on the returning motif of Kya’s nature obsession. Kya was left abandoned after all of her family escaped an utterly unfortunate situation and all she had left was nature. The marsh raised young Kya. Kya never went to school, but relied on nature’s elements to guide her through life and teach her all kinds of things. She naturally became engrossed with her surroundings and based her life around it later writing a series of books about where she grew up.

At the end of the film, Taylor Swift’s single “Carolina” was featured. The song was written specifically for the film, and I believe that the end of the movie was much more impactful with it.The song gave the end of the film more mystery and feeling, dragging on the twists this film took. Many of Swift’s fans flocked to the theaters to hear her new work as she had not released an original album since December of 2020. 

This film was my favorite film that I had seen in a long time. I give it 4.5 out of five stars. I would dock the last .5 because of the chronological sequence differing from the novel. Overall, this movie is definitely worth watching if you have read the book, but if not, I recommend you start there and figure out the rest of the mystery for yourself.