Delia Owens explains the setting of “Where the Crawdads Sing”
Delia Owens’ debut novel Where the Crawdads Sing features a vivid coastal setting that is as central to the story as the main characters. Here, the author shares some insight into why she chose this setting for her unforgettable new novel.
“Marsh is a space of light, where grass grows in water, and water flows into the sky.”
I placed my novel in the wild coastal marsh of North Carolina for both practical and poetic reasons. The story begins with the young heroine, Kya, growing up mostly alone in a raw-cut shack, deep in the wilds of the marsh. By the time all of her family has walked away for good, she is ten years old, and I wanted her story to be believable, not fanciful. As I write in the first chapter, “maybe it was mean country, but not an inch was lean.” Layers of life – mussels, oysters, crabs, and fish were piled on the land and in the water. The temperature was moderate and firewood available, making it truly possible for a ten-year old girl to survive in this setting.
Just as important, I chose this wilderness because I grew up in South Georgia and was familiar with the bright marsh and darker swamp. My mother and I canoed through these waterways, camped on these shores. Writing about it came easily.
Then there is the symbolism and poetry of the marsh that flows through the story. The bright, open waterways represent a place where human behaviors such as love, family, and learning unfold. On the other side, the murkier swamp presented the setting for less desirable, but sometimes essential, human traits. Most of us must navigate both during our lives, and hopefully find our way back into that space of light.