Narrating the story of Kya, the neglected Marsh-Girl who becomes implicated in a sensationalised murder trial in North Carolina, Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens was an instant hit. Since its publication in 2018 it has spent over 150 weeks on bestseller lists and sold millions of copies worldwide. Adapted for screen by Olivia Newman, a film of the same title is scheduled for release in July this year, starring Normal People actress Daisy Edgar-Jones in the leading role.
Where the Crawdads Sing has been praised for its vivid, breath-taking descriptions of nature, and its sensitive portrayal of childhood trauma and neglect. If you loved Crawdads and are hungry for more, then why not try one of these titles?
Milkman by Anna Burns
If you are searching for another novel which explores the impact of rumour and intrigue within a tight-knit community, then look no further than Man Booker prize winner Milkman by Anna Burns.
Set against the backdrop of The Troubles in Belfast, this extraordinary novel follows our unnamed narrator ‘middle sister’, whose greatest desire is to be uninteresting, in world in which to be ‘interesting’ is also to be in danger. Middle sister already has her work cut out preventing her mother from discovering her maybe-year-long boyfriend, when she begins to face unwanted attention and harassment from an older married man known as ‘the milkman’. As rumours spread that she and milkman are having an affair, middle sister finds herself increasingly isolated and facing real peril.
With a unique voice and innovative prose, Burns offers up a sharp and damning observation of the consequences of inaction within a community.
The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah
If the wilderness of The Marsh and the historical setting of Where the Crawdads Sing intrigued you, then you might like The Great Alone, by Kristin Hannah.
Thirteen-year-old Leni’s father Ernt used to be a happy man, but since returning from Vietnam where he was a POW, he is not the same: she and her mother Cora are now exposed to his rages and flashbacks. When he suggests moving their family north to the remote frontier of Alaska, they agree, willing to do anything for the man they both love. Initially, it seems as if the harsh hand of nature is the cure Ernt has been looking for, and they find themselves surrounded by friendly neighbours and a new kind of freedom. But as the winter creeps in and the nights grow longer, Ernt’s demons return with the dark, and Leni and her mother realise with horror that the real danger they face is coming from within the home they have built.
Hannah captures in glittering prose the spirit of a wild and beautiful landscape, and the danger that lurks both within a person’s heart and without.
Small Pleasures by Clare Chambers
Set in 1957, journalist Jean Swinney is nearing forty, but still lives with her mother in the suburbs of south-east London. Disappointed in life, she has nearly given up on her hopes for happiness, until she is asked to investigate a mysterious story. Swiss-born Gretchen Tilbury contacts her, claiming that her daughter Margaret is the result of a virgin birth. As Jean becomes acquainted with the Tilbury family while conducting her research, she finds herself drawn into friendship with Gretchen and little Margaret, as their lives become entwined. But she also finds herself falling in love with Gretchen’s husband, Howard, and her reluctance to relinquish her one last chance at happiness will result in an unbearable price to pay.
With this gentle yet devastating novel, Chambers highlights the extraordinary capacity for love and betrayal held by ordinary people, and her characters will stay with you long after the final page.
The Vanishing Half by Britt Bennet
If you are looking for more books which explore the themes of community, family, and othering, then you might enjoy Brit Bennet’s achingly brilliant novel about identity and belonging: The Vanishing Half.
The Vignes twins, Desiree and Stella, are born in 1938, to a community of Black people who are so light skinned they can pass as white. When, at sixteen, they run away from their home to New Orleans, the two sister’s lives take very different roads. Years later, Stella is married to a rich man, with a daughter who believes that both she and her mother are white. Meanwhile, Desiree has left her abusive husband and ended up back in her hometown with a daughter who is shunned because of her dark skin. Yet despite their distance, the fate of these twins – and that of their children – remains intertwined.
Debuting at number one on the New York Times fiction bestseller list, The Vanishing Half is an expertly crafted interrogation of race, family and the bonds which bind us to one another.
Betty by Tiffany McDaniel
Did you find yourself captivated by Kya’s bond with nature, and her resilience against a world which seems perpetually against her? Then you will love Betty, a heart-breaking and magical novel by Tiffany McDaniel, inspired by the life of her own mother.
Born in 1954 to a Cherokee father and a white mother, Betty learns early that life is hard. She and her siblings face violence from both within their family and without, in a world sick with poverty and racism. She finds solace in her father Landon’s stories, and in the lush nature of the Appalachian foothills, but as her family’s dark secrets come to light, she is left with no choice but to reckon with them the only way she knows how: desperate to escape, Betty picks up a pen and paper and begins to write.
Betty’s story is a difficult and at times harrowing read, but it is also a tale of fierce resilience and love, which will renew your faith in the power of humanity to heal and hope.