I Finally Watched Where The Crawdads Sing and Here’s What I Thought

photo of movie scene, Kya reading in Where The Crawdads Sing
Photo credit: NPR

Where The Crawdads Sing is finally streaming after being released in July, and let me tell you–I was so freaking excited to see it.

I was planning on watching the movie in theaters, when it released, but things got out of hand and one thing led to another–before I knew it, it was officially out of theaters and it was only a few weeks until it hit our devices.

I read Where The Crawdads Sing last year, after a recommendation from a fellow blogger. I wasn’t super excited to try the book, after it had been trending for so long with mixed reviews, but I found myself absolutely enthralled within the first couple of pages.

Where The Crawdads Sing is the story of Catherine Clark, or “Kya,” who is known to her North Carolina small town as “the marsh girl.” Her parents live in a small shack on the edge of the marsh, and the family doesn’t seem to be very social. With several siblings and an abusive father, Kya’s mother abandons her family in search of a better life and it isn’t long until everyone else abandon’s Kya, too. Left to fend for herself before she’s old enough to learn how to read, Kya turns to the marsh to keep her going.

The book has some gorgeous descriptions with incredible detail. Delia Owens, the book’s author, seems to have contributed to some other works over the years, but she displays a beautifully descriptive tone that readers of the book have fallen in love with. Combined with Kya’s coming-of-age story and the plotline of a murder mystery, the book quickly gained speed with over 2 million ratings on Goodreads and a 4.5 star review (unheard of for most books).

Though, as the book started trending, some unfavorable details about the book’s author were released, and readers began to question whether Where The Crawdads Sing would actually make it to the big screen. Shortly before the movie was released, national press got wind of a story that Delia Owens and her husband, Mark Owens (co-writer of their second book) may have been involved in a real true-crime case that involved a televised killing of African poachers. While I’m not familiar with all the gory details, The Atlantic explored the issue further, and you can read that here.

When the movie finally released, many readers claimed that they would no longer support the author and wouldn’t see the movie–though, with box office sales reaching over 132 million dollars, and a widely positive response, it’s clear that Delia Owens hasn’t entirely lost the following her book has gained. The movie recruited A-list actors like Daisy Edgar-Jones, Taylor John Smith, and Reese Witherspoon, plus the song contribution, “Carolina,” from best-selling musician, Taylor Swift, which definitely gained the attention of audiences beyond fans of the book.

Regardless of the author’s controversy, I had to check out the movie for myself and see what the hype was about, especially after I enjoyed the book so much. I personally rated the book 5 stars and recommended it to several people (before learning about the controversy, I should add), so I was very curious to see if the movie adaptation could do Where The Crawdads Sing Justice.

The most interesting difference (at least to me) about the book and the movie adaptation is the fact that the movie begins with the investigation that holds the book’s plotline. Rather than following the linear events of the book, the movie switches back and forth between the past and the present, which I honestly didn’t mind.

Frankly, I think the movie needed this aspect–without switching around the plotline, it wouldn’t have been able to grab the attention of the average audience and I think even readers would have been bored with the adaptation.

One of the most notable aspects of the book was how incredible the detail of the marsh was. Owens took a lot of time and effort describing the environment and all of the animals that inhabited it. While I appreciated that the movie adaptation tried to recreate this, visually, I’m not sure whether it could ever live up to the beauty of the verbal descriptions Owens writes.

Overall, I don’t think Kya’s obsession with the marsh is amplified enough, and I think a lot of that has to do with the movie’s focus on the plotline, versus the book’s focus on the marsh. Realistically, I understand why the movie did this, but I just don’t think that it does the book justice, as it’s such an important part to the story–the marsh almost becomes personified into its own character.

Another thing I didn’t love about this movie? How understated Jumpin’ and Mable’s roles were in the movie adaptation. Both characters become essential to the novel as they keep Kya clothed and fed after her parents abandon her. Though readers are familiar with Jumpin’ and Mable and know and love them, viewers of the movie wouldn’t necessarily understand the plot hole and how Kya survived on her own from such a young age. The movie showcases very little of Kya’s struggle, which poses a problem to the overall story of Where The Crawdads Sing. In fact, all of Kya’s relationship and friendships in the movie weren’t deep enough, including her associations with Tate and Chase.

It seems like critics agreed with what I thought, with only a 34% score on Rotten Tomatoes, even though it was relatively well-received by audiences. Critics mostly agreed that the main problems were that the movie ‘didn’t go far enough,’ that it was ‘surface-level storytelling,’ and that it just did ‘not have enough substance.’ I think I’d have to agree with critics, from a film perspective, though I do feel like it did the plot of the book justice (even if it skimped on some of the detail.)

While I rated the book, Where The Crawdads Sing, five stars, I think I’d have to give the movie three to maybe three and a half stars. I don’t think the movie adaptation could truly live up to the entirety of the visual that Delia Owen’s writing creates for her readers.

I probably won’t watch the movie adaptation again, but I did enjoy the book and I think I’ll continue recommending it to others, despite it’s popular following. I’ll let readers decide on their own about the controversy surrounding the author.

If you’d like to purchase the book, you can purchase the paperback by clicking here, and you can rent (or purchase) the movie on you personal device by clicking here.

Interested in more book reviews? Check out my full list of reviews here, or subscribe below for email updates.

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