Only when you solo dance with nature will you hear the crawdads sing.
23 Bookers armed with spirits and sustenance descended on the home of Melanie Prebis to celebrate the last meeting of Bookers’15th year. We’ll resume on September 10, 2019 with another slate of books selected by our committee, Pat Faherty, Katherine McDonald, and Melanie Prebis. Many thanks for their continual pursuit of literary excellence! As you read this summer, please pass along to them any books that might be keepers for our 16th year.
Welcome to Cindy Millweard to her first Bookers’ and to recently retired long-time Bookers’ member, Jean McSpadden (who with a little vino influence volunteered to review our summer read.) We were happy to see Kittie Minick, Jane Shaw, and Joanne Bara again.
Many thanks to Cherry for getting us into the “crawdad” mood with her table setting and cherished Dauphin Island shells. Jean Alexander, aka Marsh Girl, didn’t disappoint with her characterization and visualization of the main character with one of the most poignant scenes from the novel. Kya watches her family, one at a time, slam the door on her existence, abandoning her to fend for herself in the marsh. When Hollywood takes over, this scene will likely be produced with mournful background music, panning into Kya’s face where a lone tear trickles into the corner of her downturned mouth. Maybe Jean could consult with Ms. Witherspoon on costume design and drama!
Where the Crawdads Sing is set in the early 1950’s in the depths of an isolated marsh in North Carolina. Ten-year old Kya Clark lives alone in a shack with nothing more than an old rickety boat and the determination not unlike fictional character Rocky Balboa to survive every day against mounting odds. Delia Owens’ gift to readers was her poetic, elegant, and richly metaphorical style of writing of her “natural world.” We feel the sun, “warm as a blanket,” we see a “ballet of fireflies,” watch egrets take flight like “a line of white flags against the mounting gray clouds,” and hear the “cicadas squeal against a mean sun.” Ms. Owens tells us this novel is primarily about self-reliance, survival, and how isolation affects human behavior and the setting, a coastal marsh, is itself a major character in the novel – Kya “laid her hand upon the breathing, wet earth, and the marsh became her mother.” The author chose this area knowing although it was a wild place, it was conceivable that Kya could survive because collectable food was bountiful, temperatures were mild, and hiding places abundant. Kya represents all of us – what “we can be when we have to be” learning Nature’s lessons to survive. Ms. Owens drew on her own isolation experience spending twenty-three years either in extreme or partial isolation, seven of those in an African desert the size of Ireland with one other person. She instilled in her fictional character how isolation can make you feel insecure and inadequate but in the end the confidence gained from self-reliance provided the strength to thrive in man’s world.
We discussed the setting and how it shaped the novel; Kya’s experience on her one day of school, and the role rejection played in her decision not to return; the characters, Jumpin’ and Mabel, their significant impact on Kya, the role of racism during this era possibly explaining why they didn’t open their home to her; the role of poetry in the novel; Kya’s observation of fireflies and how the females change their flashes to signal different things; Kya’s two loves, Tate, the “evolved human male,” strong, manly, kind, intelligent, and caring…one who loves deeply and truly, and Chase, not much different from a “buck in rut,” flashing his “secondary sexual characteristics” to attract as many females as possible; the courtroom, defined with film-like drama – dramatic, brisk, dialogue-centric scenes void of Owens’ evocative human observations from Kya’s eyes (Owens told BookPage that she majorly reworked the book’s structure to include “a bomb under the sofa” to signal something more happens in the book – starting the novel with Chase Andrew’s dead body instead of Kya’s self-reliance in the wilderness…speculation that this adjustment perhaps was a nod to Hollywood.)
When you have a book so overwhelmingly accepted by 94% of those who read and reviewed it, it’s interesting to see what drove the other 6% to rate it from one to three stars – nonsensical that a young girl is left alone in a shack – for twenty years her boat never breaks down, she never gets sick obviously equipped with the immune system of a superhero; the courtroom antics mirrored Curley’s trial in the Three Stooges; fireflies would have been called lightening bugs in that time frame; no boy in a small town in North Carolina would have been named Tate or Chase (unless it was a family name…just saying); the book was “SO SAD” I felt emotionally manipulated; stereotyped characters – Jodie, the helpful older brother who disappears, the drunken abusive dad who isn’t all bad when he’s sober, the good boy, Tate, the bad boy, Chase, the cocky police chief and his assistant, the cocky prosecutor, nature writing meets romance writing…these 6% offered their opinion on why they didn’t like the book and after all they are entitled to…but doesn’t it leave the other 94% wondering if there were two books of the same name and same author.
On the business side:
We would greatly appreciate your consideration of hosting one of Bookers’ meetings in the upcoming year. Please let me know if you are available on the following dates: September 10, October 15, November 12, December 10, January 14, 2020, February 11, March 10, April 14, or May 12.
COLOR CODING SYSTEM
WHITE: LIGHT READ
PINK: MODERATELY CHALLENGING
Summer Read: The Pillars of the Earth, Ken Follett
Bookers selected this novel in September 2008 in our fifth year and voted to reread this wonderful work of historical fiction set in the 12th century when education was the responsibility of the church or only available to the very wealthy. Few could read or write, people were dependent on the church for their livelihood, and freedom was almost non-existent. The novel chronicles the lives of those building magnificent cathedrals that are standing to this day without power tools or understanding of structural engineering. Melba Holt led us through the original review, and we are looking forward to Jean’s insights.
Discussion Leader: Jean McSpadden
Happy Reading and enjoy the sights and sounds of summer with a good book in hand.