Where the Crawdads Sing


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I read the Kindle version of this book. (At the time we read it the book was so popular that it had a long waiting list to check out from the library however I discovered it was pre-loaded on some of the library Kindles that were more available for checkout.)  Whenever I read an e-copy I tend to make more notes and have more quotes (because it's just so easy).

The story is set in Barkley Cove, North Carolina and the surrounding marshland.  Barkely Cove is a fictional location.

On a scale of 1 - 5 (5 being a lot of examples/instances):

Sex:  3

Religion:  1

Gruesome:  3

Suspense: 2

Morality:  3

Traditional:  2

Sex - the town boys make bets about who would get to de-flower Kya (loc. 1582, pg. 161)  A young couple in love begin exploring (loc. 1709, pg. 174)  A couple is naked together but restrains themselves (loc. 1724, pg. 176) A young man tries to have his way with a girl but she stops him, he's upset but they talk and he agrees to wait. (loc. 2317, pg. 235) Kya willingly loses her virginity. (loc. 2424, pg. 245)

Religion - a casual mention that a young couple has been intimate several times; there is never a mention of using protection.

Gruesome - a young man attempts to rape a girl who fights back (pg. 340)

Suspense - there is a mystery but the novel was well-paced so I never felt an urge to keep reading and get a bit more information

Morality - child abandonment, in spite of extreme poverty Kya never considers stealing, Jumpin' and Mabel help Kya as much as they can

Traditional - it is a very un-traditional setting that not many can relate to however all relationships are heterosexual and there are examples of loving, supportive couples

The writing is in the style of southern vernacular such as "Jawja" for "Georgia".  It is not too much of a distraction and easy to decipher.  Most of it is an omniscient narrator and told in past tense although, suddenly, in the middle of Ch. 22 the tense changes from phrases like "tried to force herself" and "she went back to the beach" to "Kya walks from her shack and lies back on a sliver of beach".  It lasts for a section and then returns to the past tense.  For a book as acclaimed as this one is, it seems like very poor editing.

Discussion Questions

"She knew Pa was the reason they all left; what she wondered was why no one took her with them."  (loc. 200, pg. 20) Why didn't anyone take her?

Miss Pansy told Chase and his friends, "You cain't go blamin' yo' sins on somebody else, not even swamp trash."  Discuss the irony of this statement.

The first time Kya took the boat out (loc. 543, pg. 54) she was afraid of her father's reaction if he found out.  Was that a credible fear given Pa's general lack of attention?  Why did she maintain her fear of him when he was such an absent father?

Kya knew the waterways by naturally-formed landmarks.  Play a game - describe the way to a commonly known location using only landmarks and see if others can guess where you have guided them.

"Ma had said women need one another more than they need men..."  (loc. 1033, pg. 103) 
Do you agree or disagree?  Why?

Who did you think put the heron feather and other feathers and items on the stump and what do you think their intention was in putting them there? (loc. 1141, pg. 114)

Did you prefer the past story of Kya's life or the more-recent story of the police investigation?

Kya thought, "If she ever became a poet, she'd make the message clear."  Share your thoughts on poetry.

What do you think happened to Pa?

What was Kya's motivation to keep struggling through life?  "She'd always found the muscle and heart to pull herself from the mire, to take the next step, no matter how shaky.  But where had all that grit brought her?" (loc. 1839, pg. 186)

Numerous times the author tells us that Kya fed the gulls or other birds.  She fed them grits (loc. 1892, pg. 192) and bread and whatever was available to her.  Why is this behavior so important that it is mentioned repeatedly?  Tate even took over the task when Kya was unable.  (loc. 3663, pg. 370)  Why was it important to Tate?  Kya was relieved to know the gulls were "not abandoned".  (loc. 3664, pg. 370)  Obviously abandonment is a key theme in Kya's life; yet with her deep understanding of nature, why does she believe that a bird would feel abandoned by a human?

When Tate saw Kya and Chase together, he thought he didn't have the right to say anything because he had treated her poorly and abandoned her.  How might things have been different if Tate had told Kya his true feelings? (loc. 2266, pg. 230)

"Each time left her wanting, but she didn't have the faintest notion how to broach such a subject.  And anyway, she didn't know how she was supposed to feel.  Maybe this was normal." (loc. 2435, pg. 246)  Reflect on your early encounters.  Were you confused?  Who did you talk to about it?

Kya felt that she could see Chase's soul when he played the harmonica.  (loc. 2548, pg. 258)  What did his musical habits reveal about his character?  Do you think he played the harmonica for his town friends?

How does Kya's work correlate to her life experience?  "There were also drawings of the creatures who live inside -- how they eat, how they move, how they mate -- because people forget about creatures who live in shells.  // She touched the pages and remembered each shell and the story of finding it, where it lay on the beach, the season, the sunrise."  (loc. 2714, pg. 276)

Kya's mom grew up in town.  Did she leave the swamp because of the environment or the husband?  Kya grew up in the swamp.  She continued sleeping on the porch, even after she furnished the home.  Why? 
Tate and Chase thought she couldn't leave the swamp.  Could she have? (loc. 2733, pg. 278)

Discuss the poem by Amanda Hamilton. (pg. 279)

Tate and Jumpin' claimed they knew Kya had been in Greenville when Chase was killed. 
Did you believe their statements?  What about Miss Pansy's testimony (loc. 2841, pg. 289) that she'd seen Kya get on the bus from her position at Kress's?

Pa repeatedly left young Kya alone for days at a time.  How does anyone figure they can leave a child alone with no supervision?  Kya told Jodie that nature trains animals to survive, even sometimes at the sacrifice of their children, but that this process strengthens them to produce more children in the future, which perpetuates the cycle to abandon children in stressful survival situations.  "It happens in humans, too.  Some behaviors that seem harsh to us now ensured the survival of early man in whatever swamp he was in at the time.  Without them, we wouldn't be here.  We still store those instincts in our genes, and they express themselves when certain circumstances prevail.  Some parts of us will always be what we were, what we had to be to survive, way back yonder."  Do you agree with this philosophy? (loc. 2993, pg. 306)

Kya observed female fireflies luring unknown males and then eating them and also mantis females eating their partners during a sexual act.  She thinks that "female insects...know how to deal with their lovers." (loc. 3428, pg. 351)  Do you agree?  Should humans behave more like insects?  Eventually Kya comes to see, through Tate, that "human love is more than the bizarre mating competitions of the marsh creatures" (loc. 4506, pg. 370) but she still believed in the ancient genes and was content "to be part of this natural sequence". 
Did Kya evolve as a character?

Recent news stories have referred to migrants being held in cages, resulting in public outcry.  "Kya wondered who started using the word cell instead of cage.  There must have been a moment in time when humanity demanded this shift." (loc. 3447, pg. 352)  Discuss the semantics of these words.  Which word should we use?

"Before being arrested, she'd caught glimpses of a path back to Tate: an opening of her heart. 
Love lingering closer to the surface.  But when he'd come to visit her in jail on several occasions,
she had refused to see him.  She wasn't sure why jail had closed her heart even tighter." (loc. 3555, pg. 364)  Why do you suppose Kya didn't want to see Tate?  She also didn't want to call Jodie, feeling that "after all those years, how could she bother him with her troubles?  And maybe shame played a part.  // They had abandoned her to survive and defend herself.  So here she was, by herself." (loc. 3561, pg. 364)

Kya reflected that her family never had a traditional pet but they once claimed a skunk as a pet.  (loc. 3692, pg. 370)  What was the strangest pet your family ever had?

The Emily Dickinson poem at the end of Ch. 45 seems very appropriate for Kya but really, is it ever appropriate for anyone to feel that way?  (The sweeping up the heart, And putting Love away We shall not want to use again Until Eternity.)

At the end of Ch. 48, after Jumpin' told Kya about Chase's death, she went to her lagoon and recalled an Amanda Hamilton poem: Never underrate the heart, Capable of deeds The mind cannot conceive. The heart dictates as well as feels. How else can you explain The path I have taken, That you have taken The long way through this pass?  Does this lead the reader to believe that Kya killed Chase?

During the closing arguments, Kya's lawyer wondered, "did we exclude Miss Clark because she was different, or was she different because we excluded her?" (loc. 4223, pg. 370) It is sort of a twist on the old nature vs nurture argument.  Kya told Jodie she never hated people but they hated, laughed at, left, harassed and attacked her so she learned to live without them. (loc. 4351, pg. 370)  How do you explain Kya's differences?

In Ch. 55 when Kya whispers the Amanda Hamilton verse, is she thinking of Tate?  (loc. 4369, pg. 370)

What did you think was happening when the sheriff's air boat arrived to find Tate in the marsh? (pg. 370) 
Kya thought they might have arrested him, did you?

Kya realized it was the possibility of seeing Tate that led her into the marsh everyday for 15 or so years, "...always following him at a safe distance.  Sneaking about, stealing love.  Never sharing it. 
You can't get hurt when you love someone from the other side of an estuary. 
All the years she rejected him, she survived because he was somewhere in the marsh, waiting." (loc. 4400, pg. 370)  Can love be stolen?  Was it really love she was experiencing?

Tate moved into the shack with Kya. (loc. 4446, pg. 370) 
What about Scuppers' house and money and Tate's wages?

Were you surprised about the true identity of the poet, Amanda Hamilton?

What did you think the circumstances of Chase's death were?  Did Tate ever know that Chase attacked Kya?  Were you satisfied with the final revelation?

Theme Ideas

Serve red beans and cornbread like the two older sisters cooked after Ma left. (loc. 152, pg. 16)

Serve "Ma's favorite breakfast...scrambled eggs..., ripe red tomatoes sliced, and cornbread fritters made by pouring a mixture of cornmeal, water , and salt onto grease so hot the concoction bubbled up, the edges frying into crispy lace." (loc. 472, pg. 47)

Served fried fish and hush puppies like Pa and Kya ate after they went fishing, the first time Pa called her "hon". (loc. 780, pg. 79)

Serve "grilled flounder stuffed with shrimp served on pimento-cheese grits" like the special at the diner where Kya first ate at a restaurant. (loc. 824, pg. 83).  Or serve what Kya ordered, "fried chicken, mashed potatoes, gravy, white acre peas, and biscuits..." or what Pa ordered, "fried shrimp, cheese grits, fried 'okree,' and fried green tomatoes". Include a "dish of butter pats perched on ice cubes and a basket of cornbread and biscuits" as well as sweet tea and a dessert of "blackberry cobbler with ice cream". (loc. 857, pg. 86)

Serve mussels and grits - important staples in Kya's diet.

Have a mani-pedi party using Revlon "Barely Pink" like Kya's mom bought in town one time and painted all the girls' nails. (loc. 1216, pg. 121)

Serve petite cakes "each only one inch square, covered in vanilla icing with a tiny pink rose perched on top." (loc. 1568, pg. 160) like Tate brought Kya after she became a woman.

Serve "two-tiered bakery cake, ...decorated with shells of pink icing" like Tate bought for Kya's birthday. (loc. 1626, pg. 166)

Serve "chicken-fried steak, mash and gravy, turnips and coleslawBiscuitsPecan pie with ice cream." like when Scupper spoke to Tate about girls at the diner after working on the boat. (loc. 1649, pg. 168)

Recreate Chase and Kya's picnic.  Serve "cold fried chicken, salt-cured ham and biscuits, and potato saladSweet and dill pickles.  Slices of four-layer cake with half-inch-thick caramel icing.... bottle of Royal Crown Cola ...poured ...into Dixie cups...[with] cloth napkins, plastic plates and forks.  Even minuscule pewter salt and pepper shakers." (pg. 203)

Serve "pimento-cheese sandwiches and potato chips" like in Ch. 26 when Chase took Kya up the coast, farther than her boat could go. (loc. 2207, pg. 224)

Serve "fried slices of molasses ham, stirred redeye gravy, ...sour-cream biscuits and blackberry jam."  Also Maxwell House instant and hot Tetley tea like Kya served in Ch. 27 when Chase began to talk about their future. (loc. 2369, pg. 239)

Serve "roasted hot dogs; fried shrimp, oysters, and hush puppies; stirred grits", also beer and bourbon like was served at the Dog-Gone where Joe and Ed went to hear the gossip. (Ch. 28, loc. 2553, pg. 259)

Serve caramel cake like Kya planned to serve for Chase's birthday. (Ch. 29, loc. 2590, pg. 262)  Also serve French bread and cheese. (loc. 2611, pg. 265)

After discussing Kya's alibi, "the two lawmen sent a runner for a takeout of chicken 'n' dumplings, butter beans, summer squash casserole, cane syrup, and biscuits."  (loc. 2826, pg. 288) Serve a similar meal.

Serve "black-eyed peas, red onions, and salt ham boiled in [an] old dented pot" like Kya had on the stove when Jodie first came to visit. (loc. 2861, pg. 291)

Serve what Kya served Jodie when "she cooked a Southern supper as Ma would have: black-eyed peas with red onions, fried ham, cornbread with cracklin', butter beans cooked in butter and milk.  Blackberry cobbler with hard cream with some bourbon". (loc. 3036, pg. 311)

Serve what the jurors ate during their lunch recess, "tuna fish, chicken salad, and ham sandwiches" or "hot dogs, chili, and shrimp po'boys". (loc. 3292, pg. 336)

Serve almond-crusted North Carolina trout, wild rice, creamed spinach, and yeast rolls (loc. 4086, pg. 370 ) like when Kya dined with her editor, Robert.

Recreate Kya's favorite picnic, "hot tea...'coon balls,' a baked mixture of biscuit dough, hot sausage, and sharp cheddar cheese" like she remembered during the trial. (loc. 4089, pg. 370)

Serve Cracker Jacks, like kids ate while waiting for the verdict. (loc. 4263, pg. 370)

Playlist:
  • Miliza Korjus (or opera music) like the record that played when Chase and his dad were working on the boat (loc. 628, pg. 62) or like when Tate and his dad (Scupper) worked on the boat in dry dock (loc. 1643, pg. 167) or like he played at the grave site. (loc. 4423, pg. 370)
  • Play harmonica music, including "Dixie" like when Chase and Kya went on a picnic. (pg. 203)
  • Play "Michael Row the Boat Ashore" like Chase played on his harmonica (loc. 2228, pg. 227)
  • Play "Molly Malone" (The Dubliners) like Chase played on his harmonica at the end of Ch. 27. (loc. 2546, pg. 258)

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