Delia Owens’s historical fiction masterpiece Where the Crawdads Sing engulfed the summer of 2018 in an ethereal mist of love, prejudice, retribution and Southern grit. A beautiful coming-of-age chronicle, Crawdads’ pages overflow with verdant descriptors and intense conflict among an engrossing cast of characters. If a Barkley Cove mosquito has you itching for a similar read, check out one of these titles.
Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate
Another runaway hit, Before We Were Yours will certainly fulfil any lingering need for swampy, Southern historical fiction. Told between mid-century Memphis and present-day Aiken, South Carolina, this is the story of siblings estranged from their parents and each other, the scandals and trials they face in the foster system and their unlikely connections as the years go by. Before We Were Yours is based on the real scandals of the Tennessee Children’s Home Society and is a testament to human nature and one’s prevailing identity no matter where life may wander.
The Marsh King’s Daughter by Karen Dionne
For years, Helena Pelletier has hidden the harrowing truth about her father from everyone, even her husband. But, after Helena’s father breaks out of prison, a manhunt begins, and Helena recognizes herself as the only person with a shot at finding him. Set in Michigan’s marshy Upper Peninsula, The Marsh King’s Daughter is a thrilling, nature-filled tale about the relationship between captor and captive.
The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah
The successor to Kristin Hannah’s wildly popular The Nightingale, The Great Alone is a story of isolation, resilience and societal impact on private goings-on. A PTSD-suffering Vietnam POW moves his family to remote Kaneq, Alaska to escape the – in his opinion – inevitable armageddon brewing in the Lower 49. When Ernt Allbright discovers a cohort of like-minded men up in the Alaska wild, the lives of his wife and daughter endure the side effects. The Great Alone’s Leni will remind you of Kya in her reliance on basic survival instincts and the way she responds to the possibility of becoming a mere victim of circumstance.
Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata
Convenience Store Woman’s Keiko is a solitary individual and a creature of habit. When Keiko’s very comfortable status-quo is one day upended, questions of the necessity of conformity come into play. While Keiko’s day-to-day attitudes and quirks certainly have their differences when compared to Kya’s, the two characters share a similarity in marching to the beat of their own respective drums.
Golden Child by Claire Adam
Claire Adam’s Golden Child is a story of expectations, limitations and how an individual can progress through life with those imposed on him. Set in rural Trinidad and full of juxtaposing beauty and discomfort, Golden Child, similarly to Crawdads, explores themes of betrayal and familial dysfunction and its lasting impacts; Golden Child’s matter-of-fact tone is also reminiscent of Kya’s emotional disconnection from much of her human surroundings in favor of her natural ones.
Beartown by Fredrik Backman
On the surface, Beartown is the story of a crime committed by a member of the small-town high school’s winning hockey team. At its core, however, this is a story of small-town politics, the acts people are willing to overlook because of someone’s place in society and the ripple effect of just one person speaking up. The city of Beartown, its society and its small-scale nationalism is very reminiscent of Barkley Cove and the residents’ views of all that surrounds them and their willingness – or lack thereof – to let those views be changed.
The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
Another Southern historical fiction gem, The Secret Life of Bees will provides a similar ambiance to Crawdads but offers almost a parallel universe-esque storyline. Full of southern charm and grit and a strong connection to nature and other women, this coming-of-age tale might prompt you to consider, “What if Kya had a Rosaleen to look out for her?” Sue Monk Kidd’s novel and the role of mothers and women will have you reflecting on the role of a mother’s absence in Crawdads.
(Feature image is a She Reads original)
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