Where the Crawdads Sing

by Delia Owens
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Chapters 17–22 Summary

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Last Updated on June 8, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 896

Chapter 17: Crossing the Threshold 

1960: Jumpin’ tells Kya that Social Services workers have been looking for her but that he will continue to throw them off track. She shares this with Tate, who tells her that they better hide “where the crawdads sing,” a phrase Kya’s mother also used, which means where wild things are still wild. They use a rundown cabin for their lessons so that Kya is better hidden. He introduces Kya to complex biology from the school’s discarded books as well as beautiful poetry, which Kya connects to her memories of her mother. She later goes to Jumpin’s, where Mabel has new supplies for Kya, including a bra. This embarrasses her, but Mabel reassures her and tells her to let her know if there is anything else she doesn’t understand. Soon, Kya is overtaken by cramps unlike anything she’s ever experienced; Tate arrives around the same time. He reminds her that he’d placed a pamphlet about what is happening to her in the biology materials and that every girl goes through the same changes. Kya returns to Jumpin’s and tells him that she desperately needs Mabel. Predicting what has happened, Mabel arrives with necessary supplies and tells Kya that she is now a woman. At home, Tate returns with cake. He shares with Kya that his mother and sister died and that he carries guilt because he thinks they were out shopping for his birthday when they died. Kya shares that her own mother abandoned her. The two share a kiss as the leaves of autumn dance around them.

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Chapter 18: White Canoe

1960: Without a calendar, Kya doesn’t realize it’s her birthday when Tate surprises her with a cake and gifts; no one has wished her a happy birthday since her mother left. Tate’s father, Scupper, questions Tate’s involvement with the “girl in the marsh” as rumors are beginning to swirl around town. Tate admits that he visits Kya and has been teaching her to read since the rest of the town is so cruel to her. Scupper warns Tate not to get Kya pregnant and tells him that he is proud of Tate’s recent college acceptance. Tate continues taking Kya books, particularly any books relating to biology, a field of study she greatly enjoys. They celebrate Christmas with gifts and a dinner of leftovers provided by Tate, and they become increasingly physically intimate. In spring, they come close to having sex, but Tate pulls back, saying that he can’t do this to Kya, because he loves her. Tate leaves for college earlier than he’d planned to take a job on campus; the two share a meaningful goodbye and Tate disappears with a wave, promising to visit her on July 4th.

Chapter 19: Something Going On

1969: Eight days after finding Chase Andrews’s body, the investigators have a lead. Several sources claim that about four years prior, Chase began spending a lot of time in the swamp. Chase’s mother also plans to meet with the investigators that afternoon regarding some important information about a shell necklace which he always wore.

Chapter 20: July 4

1961: Kya spends the Fourth of July in the sweltering heat, awaiting Tate’s arrival. Her hope wanes with the day, and eventually the day turns to night. She finally returns to the shack and then goes back to the water early the next morning, screaming her anguish of abandonment into the empty lagoon.

Chapter 21: Coop

1961: Kya stays in bed for days after Tate fails to visit her. She wonders what it is about her that causes everyone in her life to eventually abandon her. For a month, she doesn’t leave the shack but is eventually driven to return to Jumpin’s for supplies when her shelves are completely bare. She doesn’t even talk to him because she has found that “needing people ended in hurt.” She begins to categorize and classify all of her marsh collections in a way that is both scientific and artistic. Desperately lonely, Kya chooses to protect her heart instead of engaging with people. Months of loneliness turn into a year. And then another. And another.

Chapter 22: Same Tide

1965: Kya is now nineteen and again spies Chase Andrews and his friends enjoying a fun afternoon at the beach. Chase catches her eye and forms a “shadow smile.” A few days later, he shows up at Jumpin’s and tells Kya that he’s seen her in the marsh over the years. He invites Kya for a picnic in his boat that Sunday, and she accepts. Kya recalls a poem that makes her think of Tate. She doesn’t realize it, but Tate did come to visit fifteen days after the original promise of returning on July 4th; an opportunity with his professor had kept him at school over the holiday. When he pulled up to Kya’s land, she didn’t notice him, so he quietly watched her observe various species in the marsh. When Kya heard a boat, Tate watched her eyes go crazed; she reminded him of a deer who had spotted a panther. Her behavior struck him as so odd in comparison to university life, and Tate realized then that it was “Kya or everything else.” Hating himself for being a coward who could not say goodbye, Tate quietly left.

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Chapters 7–16 Summary

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Chapters 23–29 Summary