The article you are about to read contains spoilers for where the crawdads sing both in the book and movie.
Where the crawdad sings is a 2018 novel by author Delia Owens; it is a coming-of-age story that celebrates nature while keeping things thrilling with a murder mystery. The book gained popularity when it was listed and reviewed by actress Reese Witherspoon in her bookclub-Hello Sunshine.
Over 15 million copies sold and its unwavering reign as the #1 New York Times bestseller for 124 consecutive weeks. So it is without surprise that the movie adaptation was released barely five years after the book was published.
Where the crawdad sings summary
Where the crawdads sing tells the story of Catherine Danielle Clark, commonly referred to as Kya, in the book and movie as well.
It follows the story of six-year-old Kya, abandoned by her mother and siblings. Left alone with her abusive father, Kya learns to fend for herself, and eventually, her father leaves.
The book is set between 1950 to the 60s in Northern Carolina; we follow Kya’s struggles surviving alone in the isolated Marsh of North Carolina. First, Kya starts school, which she only attends once because of how she’s mocked and ostracized for living in the marsh.
Kya lives isolated from the rest of Barkley Cove; she successfully avoids social services and survives by selling mussels to Jumpin and Mabel, a black couple who owns a gas station and a convenience store. They assist Kya in whatever way they can.
She meets a boy named Tate, an old friend of her older brother, and falls in love with him. He taught her to read and write and was one of the few people who treated her without disdain. However, not long after Tate has to leave for college at Chapel Hill, they say their goodbyes. Kya decides to focus on herself and the marsh, fascinated by the shells and insects in the marsh; she begins to draw and take notes as she studies them; with time, Kya finds a publisher willing to publish her work and becomes an author.
She catches the eye of Chase Andrews ‘the best quarterback Barkley Cove has ever seen, and they begin a relationship; in the course of their relationship, she gifts him a shell necklace. Tate returns five years later, still in love with Kya but finds her in a relationship. She later finds out Chase is engaged and calls things off with him, but Chase would have none of it. In his delusions of love, he becomes violent with her and tries to force himself on her; luckily, she escapes his attempt.
Nevertheless, she is left to live in constant fear of him and for Kya, a life lived in isolation is better than a life lived in fear.
On October 30th, 1969, the body of Chase Andrews was found at an abandoned fire tower by the swamp; his death is blamed on Kya, sardonically referred to as ‘Marsh girl’ by the rest of Barkley Cove.
Kya is then put up for trial for the murder of Chase Andrews. Tom Milton, a lawyer, volunteers to represent her in court. She is later found innocent and acquitted of all charges.
Kya and Tate rekindle their lost romance; soon after, they marry and spend their lives exploring the marsh and all its creatures.
She goes on to write several books and dies peacefully in her boat at the age of 64. After her death, while going through her belongings, Tate finds out Kya is responsible for Chase’s death.
Where the crawdads sing book vs. movie; which is better?
As an avid reader who’s often disappointed by movie adaptations of books, I was pleasantly surprised by the movie- Where the crawdads sing. Released in theaters on July 15th, 2022, and was produced by Reese Witherspoon. Although the movie certainly portrayed the beauty of the marsh, it also highlighted Kya’s survival and rejection by society.
However, many intrinsic details were omitted from the movie.
Ten major differences between Where the crawdads sing book and movie adaptation.
Kya is starts school.
In the novel, Kya is approached by Ms. Culpepper, who entices her with a promise of a hot meal if she attends school, whereas, in the movie, Mabel advises her to go to school; she tells Kya the school’s lunch menu is published in the newspaper, and to attend if she’s looking for a meal she didn’t have to prepare herself.
Kya receives ma’s letter a year after she leaves; she can’t read it and drops it on the table for her father to find.
In the movie, a mail carrier brings the letter; Kya receives it and hands it over to her father, who reads it and burns it.
Afterward, he burns Ma’s belongings. In the book, he burns Ma’s things long before he receives her letter.
Kya meets Tate
Where the Crawdads Sing movie shows Kya understanding from the beginning that Tate is her brother’s friend, Tate is also seen defending her from her abusive father, while in the novel, Kya meets Tate when she gets lost in the marsh. He guides her home, and she remembers him from a painting her mother made.
Kya’s book’s timeline
In the movie, we see Kya publish her book after Tate hands her a list of publishers before he leaves. She takes his advice only after discovering she has to pay taxes to fully own the right to her house and the acres of land around it in the book; Tate gives her a list of publishers and inspires her to publish her book after he returns from college.
In the book, Kya finds out about Chase’s engagement with Pearl from the local newspaper; in the movie, she meets Chase and his friends while running errands. Chase surreptitiously greets her, obviously not wanting to be seen in public with the ‘Marsh girl,’ Pearl introduces herself as Chase’s fiancee, and Kya is left heartbroken.
This detail is completely omitted in the movie. Where the Crawdads sings novel tells us the story of Kya’s father as a soldier during World War II. The book explains how her parents meet and why Pa is abusive.
The name Amanda Hamilton makes no appearance in the movie Where the Crawdads Sing, whereas in the book, Kya often recites poems written by Amanda Hamilton.
The movie ignores the racism that Jumpin and Mabel faced as black people in the 1950s. This is well emphasized in the book as we see Kya defend them on some occasions; racism is also seen in the separation of schools and even parts of the town.
The book reveals that Kya is the murderer when Tate discovers a compartment under the floorboard; he finds a poem written by Kya under the pen name Amanda Hamilton. The poem Firefly and the shell necklace he finds makes him realize that Kya is Chase’s killer. On the other hand, the movie shows Tate finding a book of hers that contains a drawing of Chase and the shell necklace.
Lastly, a part of the book that I feel is fundamental is how Kya is in tune with nature, how she observes the behaviors of living things in the marsh, and how they influence her actions and decisions. Unfortunately, this interaction is scarcely shown in the movie.
For me, Where The Crawdads Sing movie is much better than the book. I struggled to get through to the 80th page of the book, and some readers online said they didn’t get the whole idea of the book until they got to page 100. It turned out to be an amazing book if one gets past the 100th page. But the movie made sense from the beginning; it would catch anyone’s attention and be thrilling. So for me, I’d pick the movie over the book.
You can drop your comment in the box to let us know which one you think is better, Where The Crawdads Sing: movie or the book?
About The Author
Ilo Reuphina is a Nigerian freelance
writer and a student of Veterinary Medicine.
She is often found with her head stuck between pages when not writing. Her hobbies include binge-watching anime or a TV series, hiking and singing.
She often goes by the pen name Ru writes.