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Last Updated on November 18, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 439

Kya grows up largely separate from her siblings. During the 1950s, her impoverished family lives in coastal North Carolina. Domestic conflicts, largely caused by her father’s abusive behavior, lead her mother to take their youngest children and leave home, while Kya and the three oldest siblings are left with their father. Kya never sees her mother again and lives in perpetual fear of her father’s violence. Her existence in an abusive household is likened to that of the minnows in the marsh:

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Kya learned from the mistakes of the others, and perhaps more from the minnows, how to live with him. Just keep out of the way, don’t let him see you, dart from sunspots to shadows. Up from the house before he rose, she lived in the woods and water, then padded back into the house to sleep on the porch as close to the marsh as she could get.

Kya develops a deep love for and understanding of her natural environment. As she processes her mother’s absence, Kya comes to understand that the marsh has the nurturing ability that she longs for. 

[W]henever she stumbled, it was the land who caught her. Until at last, at some unclaimed moment, the heart-pain seeped away like water into sand. Still there, but deep. Kya laid her hand upon the breathing, wet earth, and the marsh became her mother.

Eventually, this knowledge turns into a career as a nature writer, and Kya’s reputation around Barkley Cove earns her the nickname “The Marsh Girl.” Some of the initial motivation for her writing comes from her friend—and eventual partner—Tate.

After Kya’s brother Jodie...

(The entire section contains 439 words.)

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