This is the debut novel from Delia Owens and I found this title through the Reese Witherspoon Hello Sunshine Book Club on Instagram as her September pick.
Owens is no novice at writing though as she is the co-author of three internationally bestselling nonfiction books about her life as a wildlife scientist in Africa which includes Cry of the Kalahari and has won the John Burroughs Award for Nature Writing. I am definitely with Reese Witherspoon on this novel ‘I can’t even express how much I love this book’.
The writing is very accomplished and the story has a massive twist but for me it was the characters that really grabbed my attention and kept it, especially Kya, the main character. Kya is left to raise herself in the marshes of North Carolina and her abandonment by her family and her intense aloneness, determination and her shyness are so skilfully wrought into a growing of age novel that incorporates a romance, a mystery and a murder.
It is situated in the South in the 50’s and 60’s and outlines the times, the racism and the prejudice against the ‘marsh girl’ who becomes the main suspect when the town’s handsome popular Chase Andrews is found dead. It opens in 1969 with the finding of Chase Andrew’s body and moves from the present to the past to explore Kya’s backstory and moves onto her trial. As might be expected by Owens background the natural beauty of the marshes are beautifully described but it is her characters and her wonderfully real characterisations as they develop who grab you and will not let go.
Owen’s writing puts me in mind of Barbara Kingsolver and I loved her The Poisonwood bible so if you like Barbara Kingsolver you will really like Delia Owens. This book entered the New York Times September list at Number 9 so many others definitely loved this book too.