While on vacation , my sister’s friend had this book and she offered to let me take it home , but I said no, that I’d get it when I got back to Texas . I had to reserve it at the library and I finally picked it up last Friday , excited to read it. Friday was so busy that I didn’t get to read it. I kept glancing at it all day Saturday as a million things kept popping up to prevent me from finding out what this story was about. I had not even looked at it yet . Finally, the chaos of life settled down and I snuck off into my room to read.
I was instantly sucked into the marsh with Kya , the main character , and the mystery of the dead man. Owens’ descriptions of the plants , animals , birds and watery biome of the marsh had me wishing I was seeing the scenes in a movie . Happily , I later discovered that this book has been made into a movie! I finished the book the next day and the words still linger in my heart .
The plot revolves around Kya, a young girl from a poor family who live in a shack next to a marsh. Early in the story Kya is abandoned by her mother and then her siblings , leaving her alone with her drunk, violent war-wounded father to survive by her wits. Kya is only six years old, but very resourceful and has developed skills and instincts in her short life to know when and how to stay away from her father and to get food . She hides in the woods and marsh when anyone comes to the shack to try to make her go to school or a home .
A second storyline is introduced quickly when two boys find the dead body of the local town football hero . The author skillfully weaves the murder investigation into chapters between the years that Kya is growing up until at the end when the two plots converge .
The author, Delia Owen spent years observing nature and writing non-fiction books about animals in Africa . Her scientific knowledge is put to good use in this story as Kya explores and lives in her private world in the marsh collecting and studying all of the creatures and plants . The birds are her friends in her lonely world without human contact. She becomes almost feral, surviving without electricity or literacy or adult help until her father also abandons her and she is forced to seek out food .
She finds a caring father figure in Jumpin’ , an old Black man who owns the bait store where she starts going to sell oysters so she can buy the grits and few other groceries that she lives on. His wife Mabel provides Kya with clothing , love, and motherly advice. But Kya keeps to herself, only letting them get so close . She’s been hurt so many times by her family and the prejudice of the townspeople that she protects herself like a wounded cat.
Kya develops two other relationships that change her life. One is with a boy , Tate, who had been her brother’s friend, who takes her under his wing and teaches her to read . Eventually they fall in love , but then he leaves for college . Her heart is broken when he doesn’t come back when he says he will.
Then she meets another boy, Chase, who later turns up dead, the subject of the murder mystery . They also develop a relationship , but he’s not a good person like Tate. She later finds out he’s been lying to her . Her heart can’t take the pain of being rejected again. She withdraws completely from the world.
Well , that’s enough spoilers. I’ll leave the rest for you to discover! This book is so good! Truly one of the best stories I’ve read in a long time. Can’t wait to see the movie. Happy reading!