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Last Updated on June 11, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 415

Where the Crawdads Sing is both a coming-of-age novel and a crime drama in which Owens explores the complex circumstances that Catherine “Kya” Clark must endure as she grows up. Kya—a poor, young white girl—navigates the violence of an abusive father and eventual abandonment by her family in the marshland of North Carolina. Despite her young age and lack of education, she adapts to her environment and learns to fend for herself, drawing strength and personal inspiration from her natural surroundings.

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The little guidance young Kya receives from her father consists primarily of his knowledge of the lowland coastal environment in which they live. The fictional setting of Barkley Cove, North Carolina, is embedded throughout the novel, and while this setting is the origin of many of Kya’s problems and trials in life, it is also simultaneously a place of refuge, beauty, and comfort during the many stages of Kya’s lonely development. Having experienced so much abandonment in her life, Kya’s relationship with and dependence on the marsh grants it a significance akin to that of a close friend or family member. When Kya is charged with murder and put in jail, she keenly misses living in the marsh, and she disturbed by the feeling of being unconnected to the wildlife, the land, and the water during her time away.

The domestic violence and abandonment Kya experiences early in childhood has a lasting effect on her personal relationships later in life. She develops romantic relationships with both Tate and Chase, yet there is a sharp contrast between the two men—a...

(The entire section contains 415 words.)

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