Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. One of my favorite novels of the past several years arrives this week in paperback some two-and-a-half years after its hardcover release. In spite of its phenomenal sales success - which is why the paperback was delayed for so long - Where the Crawdads Sing did not arrive on the scene in August of 2018 with a lot of fanfare. Instead, word of mouth among indie booksellers and their customers created a buzz that put the book on more and more readers' radar - so much so that has been a fixture on bestseller lists beginning in early 2019.
 
I wasn't among the early readers, but I was happy to finally to join the parade. The book's premise didn't initially grab me, but thank goodness for peer pressure because Where the Crawdads Sing was a lovely and unexpected surprise. The story of Kya Clark begins in 1952, with her mother walking out on the family when Kya is just six years old. Four older siblings also drift away over the next couple of years, leaving Kya with her drunken, irresponsible father, living in a dilapidated house in the coastal marshes outside of a small coastal North Carolina town. When dear old dad finally takes a hike as well, young and unschooled Kya is completely on her own, using what she learned from her father and a brother about the natural world around her to survive. Although this is her first book of fiction, Owens is an award-winning nature writer and the coauthor of three books about her life as a wildlife scientist in Africa. As such, she was able to make the predicament of a 10-year-old girl abandoned in the marshland remarkably believable to me - no easy task. 
 
The book jumps back and forth in time, interspersing Kya's life and eventual involvement with two boys she meets as a teenager (one of whom changes her life by teaching her to read) with the 1969 investigation of a murder that finds Kya, or The Marsh Girl as she is known in town, as the prime suspect. That's all you need to know, but I will add that Kya Clark is a wonderful and empathetic character for whom you'll be rooting throughout.