Southern Library Required Reading: Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

Recently I started participating in the Reese Witherspoon Hello Sunshine Book Club reads, and my second read was Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. I had not picked this book up yet, mostly because I had had such an extensive to read pile, and because I wasn’t sure whether it would turn out to be a fluff novel, which I don’t generally enjoy reading. Boy was I overwhelmingly surprised and delighted when I read this book. Before I summarize and offer my personal thoughts, I’ll just take a moment to say that you NEED to purchase this book if you haven’t done so already. It is available in hardback, Kindle, and Audio formats. I’ll offer links at the end of this post.

Where the Crawdads Sing is a beautiful coming of age story about a young girl who grows up in the salt marshes of North Carolina. Facing abandonment, lack of education and terror of social exposure, Kya (the young girl) learns to survive almost entirely on her own. She navigates learning to find food, puberty, finding ways to earn a small living and preserving her remote lifestyle and home. Along the way she discovers friendship, love, heartbreak and abuse as she blossoms into an enigmatic woman. Woven into her story is the mystery of a local death that may or may not be related back to her, creating a fear driven struggle for Kya to remain hidden away. At the same time, she faces the ever encroaching fingers of society as developers move to encroach upon the salt marshes, creating a reflection of the wild and unruly land itself needing to remain hidden from the world that would aim to tame it.

Kya’s story resonated with me in so many ways as I read this book. I actually recently had read The Gulf, which I’ll be writing about later, but the setting of the salt marshes really rang back to some of the greater issues presented in The Gulf about trying to retain the wilderness of the salt marshes. Anyone who has grown up in the Carolinas, Georgia, Florida or Louisiana is instantly familiar with the environment that is meant when I say salt marshes. Kya’s home is a small cracker cabin tucked away in the scrubby underbrush that borders salt marsh tidal flats. I was able to quickly paint in my mind the scene of palmettos, scrub brush, old hanging oaks and and pines, and their gentle recession as characters approached the shell dense shorelines followed by creeks winding in and out of grasses and islands of dense foliage. Kya becomes very deeply fascinated with the bird life that surrounds her and this is also easily pictured by anyone familiar with tidal flats. Herons, Cranes, Songbirds, Raptors, Pelicans, Ducks and Grebes can all be seen in the salt marshes of the Southeast. The Gulf spends a lot of time tracing the history of the Gulf Coast Salt Marshes and their interruption caused by human greed. Kya’s salt marshes face some of this same greed, while she herself faces the relentless need of society to force conformity on both people and places. I felt myself wanting to fight with her for her freedom, as well as the freedom of where she lives.

The love stories that Kya lives are also very profound, and heartbreaking. Her first loves are her parents, both of whom abandon her at a very young age. She is left with one semi-friend who later becomes one of her romances, and the gracious generosity of a black couple who run a fishing camp. Later Kya discovers romantic love, the desolation of heartbreak, the confusion and despair that can be found in abuse, and the search for trust in a companion after so much loss. Her story is incredibly moving, and I foresee a beautiful movie in the future. You absolutely have to read the book first though.

This book is Delia Owens’ debut. Can you imagine what is to come from her? I do hope that we continue to see such beautiful southern novels, not just from her, but from other authors in the future. I felt like I was living in the environments that I grew up in. The book can be purchased on Amazon. Below, you can read a brief intro of the book, and follow the links to purchase from Amazon. I know you will love it!

February Wish List

Welcome to this month’s edition of the wish list! Each month I’m going to try to make a list of things I think any Southerner should enjoy! I hope you can find things that resonate with you!

The Poems of Johnny Cash

I think we all know that I love Johnny Cash. This is on my to be read ASAP list! Obviously, music is poetry in sound. This book explores Johnny as a written poet, and everyone should read it! It can be purchased here

Pioneer Woman Serving Platters

I absolutely love the Pioneer Woman’s Floral pattern kitchen items! These are currently my absolute favorites. This is a three piece set, and they are perfect for spring garden parties! Just look at those vibrant yellows and reds in the flowers, and the soft blues. I can’t wait to get these for serving scones and tea cakes! They can be found here.

Hanging Planter

There has been a growing movement back to including house plants in home decorating and I just adore hanging planters. This lovely wood basket has such subtle coloring, it will flow in any room. I really like the natural materials of the chains that hold it up. Find your favorite indoor plant and hang it near a window for an elegant accent that will help your home’s air quality. It can be found here.

Palmetto Cushion Case

Recently I read an article that featured a coastal home, and the owners would use single palmetto fronds as feature flora in their home. Ever since, I have loved images and art that feature the single palmetto frond. This case actually is part of a series, and is so incredibly affordable. It would look great in any living room, or as part of a breezy front porch ensemble. It can be found on Amazon at:

air plant oyster by SoulFullGrows

Another new favorite of mine is the use of oyster shells in home decor. Air plants have been a recent favorite and again, the inclusion of plants in your home can help create cleaner air for your family. I just love how dainty these are, and the air plants look beautiful on their oyster shells! These bring a little bit of the coast right into your home. I want one in every room!! SoulFullGrows is an Etsy shop that makes these, as well as air plant terrariums. They are well worth visiting to add plant life to your home. These air plant oysters can be found here:

Where the Crawdads Sing

I actually have this book and have already read it. I am telling you now, this is hands down one of the best books I have ever read. If you haven’t picked up a copy, do so now. It is available in hard back, as a Kindle read or via Audible (which I have to try). I am sitting on pins and needles waiting for some producer to snatch this up and make it into the fabulous movie I know it would be. I cried, I laughed, and I will be featuring it in the next few weeks as its own post. So go get your copy right now!

Wander Inn Home and Body Spray

I’ve seen the Wander Inn featured a few times from different people now. First was in a magazine, and most recently I found this on the Junk Gypsy page. So you know I am going to have to try this spray that they collaborated on with Junk Gypsy, and learn more about the Wander Inn itself. Vanilla and Sandalwood are two of my favorite scents, so this is sure to be pleasing! It can be purchased here:

Oyster Crab by TheArcticPines

As I mentioned earlier, I love Oysters featured in art and home decorations. This beautiful crab was made by TheArcticPines Etsy shop! She makes several other pieces. I love that these add such a pretty, but simple coastal feel in any home.  Find this crab here:

Three Sisters Springs

This past weekend I got to go visit Three Sisters Springs in Crystal River, FL. I had visited in the past as a swimmer from the river itself. Three Sisters is actually a newer park that was developed to preserve the spring itself while giving the public the chance to see an environmental wonder. I am so glad that they’ve closed the springs now to swimmers and only allow the wildlife to swim their way in. It preserves the natural beauty of the springs. For years, manatees have been piling into Three Sisters during the winter to socialize and keep warm in the spring heads, which maintain a consistent temperature in the 70’s despite cold snaps that occur from November through March. The park has a really fantastic boardwalk that winds around the springs, with multiple viewing platforms and informative signs. There are trams available for transport from the Three Sisters Springs Center which is located in the middle of Crystal River. The trams drop you at the head of the boardwalk and return every thirty minutes to pick up visitors who are ready to head back.

Manatees have long visited the springs and rivers in the heart of Florida, where they keep warm, raise their calves and can find freshwater foliage to feed on. They are quiet and relaxed normally, and can be observed peacefully gliding along just below the water’s surface. Three Springs has a small crystal clear creek that leads from the river canal into the spring itself and the manatees were steadily meandering their way into the spring while we visited. The springs could be housing anywhere from 20 to 200 manatees at any given time. When we arrived this weekend, there were 75 in the spring before our tram got there and another 150 in the canal outside. There were well over 100 manatee in the springs when we left. The manatees rest and munch on small vegetation in the spring, and there is a consistent spouting sound as they come up for air periodically. This is such a great way to show our children these beautiful and peaceful creatures.

There is also a nice nature trail along the canal that runs outside of the spring where viewers can see turtles, birds, insects, and a great variation of Florida native foliage. The property features a mixture of dense underbrush with pine, oak and cypress along the river itself and an open area of low scrub including palmettos, grasses and berry bushes where the birds can be seen flitting about eating. The day was rather cloudy, so it was hard to really capture the different colors in the scrub areas, but it was very beautiful.

Songbirds and woodpeckers are common here, as well as herons, but there are also raptors. Osprey can be observed over the rivers as they scout for fish. This beautiful red shouldered hawk landed in front of us on one of the many bird houses that are installed along the walking trail. We were also lucky enough to see a small garter snake, though he was too camouflaged for good pictures.

I absolutely recommend making a trip if you get to the Crystal River area of Florida around this time of year. Crystal River also has many different restaurants, which I plan to explore and share with you more. Charlie’s is an old favorite for fresh seafood. There are several BBQ restaurants as well which I’ve not visited yet. Or you can take a short drive north and visit Cedar Key when you are done at the springs. More on all of these later. I hope you get to visit Three Sisters Springs!