Genre: Mystery Fiction – Bildungsroman
Author: Delia Owens
It’s like reading poetry: a rhythmical lullaby that makes the reader think he is on a boat moved by a gentle tide. The end will make you wonder: is it an happy ending or not?
Good to know
Kya is just a girl when her Mum walks away, soon followed by all her siblings. She is left alone with her drunk and abusive father. She has to cook, clean and take care of the house while dealing with loneliness, feelings of abandonment and loss. She is always wondering when and if her Mother will ever return. Soon her father disappears as well and Kya is left in the hands of Mother Nature, helped by the shop owner Jumpin and his wife, Mable.
As Kya grows she doesn’t know anything about interactions between human beings, she sets the creatures of the Marsh as an example, at least till Tate comes into her life. He is her brother’s older friend and teaches her to read and shows her acceptance and happiness. But he has to leave for college. While he is away Chase enters her life, but keeps their relationship very secret… he is ashamed of the Marsh girl and wouldn’t introduce her to any of his friends or family. A while after Kya breaks up with him and, a couple of years later, he is found dead. Could she be his killer? What motive could she have?
First of all, let me tell you that the synopsis you find on the back cover of the book doesn’t have anything to do with the book itself. I wouldn’t even say this book is a mystery to be fair, even though there is a murder, an investigation and a trial. To me, this is a Bildungsroman: the story of a little girl that has to learn to survive on her own observing the animals of the marsh where she leaves and she learns from them.
The only human beings she has contact with are Jumpin and his wife Mabel: he owns a gas dock and bait shop that sits between Kya’s area of the marsh and the village. He helps the kid how he can and his wife gives her clothes, jam and anything else she needs. They are with no doubt my favourite characters!
Kya, though, even if helped by the amazing couple, doesn’t know how to read or write till she meets Tate: sweet, young, coward Tate. The two of them spend a great deal of time together: she shows him the marsh, the birds, the fishes, her amazing drawings of the nature that is around her. He teaches her how to interact with people, how to read and write and keeps bringing her his old school books. Eventually, they fall in love, and everything looks so perfect. I have to confess that I was very tense while reading this part: I knew that something bad was coming! Tate has to leave to go to college and simply does not come back to Kya. She cries, suffers and dives into the nature that surrounds her even more.
The description of what is around Kya is probably what I liked the most of the book: the writing is unique and breath-taking, something as simple as the description of an insect has the power to make you cry. It’s like reading poetry, like a rhythmical lullaby that makes the reader think he is on a boat moved by a gentle tide. Nothing too difficult or complicated… just beautiful and elegant!
And after all this amazingness… here comes Chase! Classic womanizer, he wants Kya because he thinks she must be so wild! To be fair he sticks around for a while, which is the first thing I have not fully understood: he doesn’t love her, he can have any girl he wants, he actually gets engaged while being with Kya… why does he not just leave her? Anyway, as I said he gets engaged, forgets to share this with Kya, till she finds out and she breaks up with him.
A couple of years later Chase is found dead and Kya is a strong suspect. She is arrested, even if there is no proof at all, she gets through a trial, and she is set free. I am not a big fan of legal mysteries, so I probably went through this part a bit quickly. Kya is not speaking at all, even though a lot of people that would have never dreamt to talk to the Marsh Girl before – as she’s called – do actually take her defence.
I forgot to mention that, in the meantime, Tate comes back into the game convincing Kya to send her drawings to a publisher: nobody knows the marsh as good as she does and she actually gets published… not only one book, more than one!
After the trial, the two of them go back together and live happily ever after… at least till the last few pages. Here comes the actual plot twist, something that I was not expecting at all if I am honest, and that let me wandering whether this book has a happy ending or not!