Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens sat on my book shelf for months waiting patiently until I had the time and inclination to read. Highly recommended from friends, the book remained unopened.
Then I attended a writer’s workshop with several successful authors. A question asked of a local North Carolina bestselling author resulted in a wave of comments raising disdain for the acclaimed novel.
Guess what I did when I came home? Right. I opened the book and dug into it. Before I heard one more comment–negative or positive–I needed to determine for myself what I thought about the book. Same way I felt about Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee .
Once started, I had to finish. Good sign. The language of the naturalist captured me in its net. I lost myself in the descriptions of island life off the coast of North Carolina where even the tiniest of creatures and the most obscure of flora received its due. The character of Kaya broke my heart in its innocence and cheered my heart for her resilience. Tension builds throughout as she learns more about the world away from her narrow experience with human life forms after abandonment by those who should have taken care of her.
But…and this is a big one…this book published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons contains some errors that should make the editors at the big house cringe and rush to correct.
The first one that disappointed me occurred while the police chief and deputy sit after a long day of detective work to figure out who murdered a local man. They are on the deck of their station facing the marsh and then the Atlantic Ocean beyond. The author writes that the two are drinking a beer while watching the sunset. I read the line to my husband and asked him to tell me the location of the novel. “California,” he replied. You’d think. But no. A simple, silly mistake that should have been caught and corrected.
Then there are multiple references to folks in this small community heading on over to Asheville, North Carolina, as if it’s just a short jaunt. Once it’s when the father needs to check on his disability payments. In another instance, a mother wants a special gift, but the Ace Hardware near the island didn’t carry it so she drives over to Asheville . Sorry, but Asheville may be recognizable to the rest of the country, but anyone who knows the area knows two things. Asheville isn’t a big city nor the closest one to the coast. Try Raleigh or Charlotte for checking in the with the VA. Same with the Ace Hardware. I don’t think a busy struggling mother would drive more than three hundred miles for a toy when other larger cities are much closer. The critics at the writing conference where I first heard of this complaint speculated that the publishers wanted to use a popular town as reference. But anyone who knows the state at all knows that Asheville is the furthermost city from the coast located in the western part of North Carolina.
Fiction elaborates, exaggerates, enhances, and embellishes reality. But if an author uses real places, facts and details should be accurate. I usually put down books that contain such blatant errors. Fortunately, Ms. Owens created such an otherwise compelling read, I forgave and forged ahead to the end.
I don’t blame her. I blame her editors and proofreaders.
I recommend reading the book and ignoring the stupid errors. It’s worth it and captures the life teeming on the sea shores in all its bizarre, beautiful, and horrific glory.