If I had the time, I would’ve read this book in one sitting. But, alas, I have responsibilities (being an adult can be rough), so it took me a little under a week to get through it. Now that I’ve finished the book, Delia Owens has made me a believer: a believer in her work, and a believer in the fact that I can read something that isn’t set in present day. This was the first book I have ever read that wasn’t contemporary fiction that I’ve given 5 stars to, so that’s saying something.
This story is written poetically and gracefully as it covers a span of nearly 20 years. The heart wrenching story of a little girl abandoned by everybody expected to love her absolutely broke me, but the way she learned to survive, thrive, and live on her own made her character even more lovable. Expecting everyone she ever meets to abandon her, Kya steals our hearts as she learns from her friend Tate how to read, write, and becomes educated about the marsh that she calls home.
When someone murders the town’s golden boy, Chase Andrews, Kya’s name shows up first on the suspect list. The trial of the mysterious “marsh girl” catches the attention of everyone in town and witnesses come out of the woodwork in an attempt to convict her. We get a firsthand look at a small town murder trial in the early 70’s, and many characters that made small cameos throughout the book showed back up in the courtroom. My heart broke at Kya’s loneliness as she lived 2 months in jail with nobody except the jailhouse cat to keep her occasional company.
The plot of this book kept me guessing until the very last page, but that was not my favorite part of the book. The characters made me fall in love. While Kya did not find the company of a whole lot of people, the ones that she associated with most often stole my heart. My heart leapt when Tate shows back up after years of absence, my stomach hurt when Chase mistreated Kya, Jumpin’ and Mabel gave more love to an abandoned girl than anyone I’ve ever known, and I felt like I knew each of them personally by the end of the book.
The ending broke me, and I still don’t know how I feel about it. I don’t know how I would have preferred for it to end, but I feel…unsettled. Regardless, I cannot give this book anything less than 5 stars. Well done, Owens. I cannot wait for the next thing you write.