August 16, 2022

COLUMN: A book-lover’s review of ‘Where the Crawdads Sing’

No spoilers here

Last night, I had my husband go with me to Des Moines to see “Where the Crawdads Sing.” I was so excited; I couldn’t wait for the previews to end so we could start the movie.

I’ve loved reading for as long as I can remember. When I was a kid, the limit at the library was seven books checked out at once. The library director gave me expanded access after I maxed out time and time again.

I don’t read now as much as I did then, but that comes with adulthood I suppose. I’ve read nearly 40 books this year, and “Where the Crawdads Sing” is currently in a three-way tie for my favorite book of the year.

The book, written by Delia Owens, was featured in Reese Witherspoon’s book club in 2018. Witherspoon created the book club with the intention of raising up women who write books about realistic women.

In 2013, “Gone Girl” began Witherspoon’s journey to producing these books into movies. “Where the Crawdads Sing” is her newest production.

From the first ripples of water and call of the marsh birds, I was in the world with her. In true Cheyenne fashion, I cried through the entire movie - and I was reining it in.

As far as book to movie adaptations go, this was top tier. There were several minor details omitted, but that’s to be expected. What’s really important in my opinion is not adding elements that wasn’t in the book - and this lived up to that expectation.

When the movie started with a dramatic scene that doesn’t happen until much later in the book, I was worried they would skip over her childhood, but that wasn’t the case. They simply started with the most intense scene and worked through flashbacks to get a picture of her life.

It makes sense. These days, people want to be hooked immediately. Instant gratification. Pages, sites, videos all try to engage the viewer to stop the endless scroll and pay attention. They only have seconds for the person to decide whether to pass or keep watching.

Readers have a secret skill - the ability to sit in a quiet moment. The book opens up over the marsh, and for the first few pages, not much happens. But that’s what life on the marsh was like for Kya. It was quiet, peaceful, free. Readers get the chance to sit in her world with her. Feel the hot breeze, taste the salt air. Listen to the crawdads sing.

The book and movie have their fair share of trigger warnings: physical and sexual assault, abandonment, violence. It themes around what one must do to survive.

There were a few quotes that hit me more than others. At one point, Kya said, “Being alone was a feeling so vast, it echoed.”

I could feel that emptiness she described. It reminded me of growing up primarily as an only child. My half-siblings only came over every other weekend, so I spent a majority of my time alone. It’s part of the reason I got so into reading.

It reminded me of when my husband went to Marine Corps basic training. It was my first year of college. I already felt pretty alone so far from home and my dad. Losing him too made me feel hollow.

My loneliness was nothing in comparison to Kya’s, but it allowed me to feel that moment with her.

She also said, “The heart’s pain seeped away like water into sand, still there but deep.” I’m still thinking on that one, but I liked the metaphor.

I remember when I finished the book, I longed for Kya’s freedom. I envied her ability to live wild in nature. To spend her time researching and living rather than trapped in the monotonous world we live in where each day brings more of the same.

Then the power went out. I was not amused. I very quickly discovered, in fact, I am not Kya. I do love nature. While being wild holds its distant appeal, I’ll keep with my air conditioning, streaming services and cellphone.

My husband’s review - disappointed there were no actual crawdads.

Cheyenne Roche

CHEYENNE ROCHE

Originally from Wisconsin, Cheyenne has a journalism and political science degree from UW-Eau Claire and a passion for reading and learning. She lives in Creston with her husband and their two little dogs.