TOP 10 OVERALL
Booklist Reviews 2018 July #1
Owens' (Secrets of the Savanna, 2006) first novel is a leisurely, lyrical tale of a young woman growing up in isolation in the 1950s and 60s, in a marsh on the North Carolina coast. Kya is abandoned by her troubled mother when she is only six. Soon after, her four, much-older siblings leave, as does her alcoholic father a couple of years later. As Kya matures and teaches herself to be a naturalist, she is torn between two slightly older boys: kind, observant Tate and rascally, attractive Chase. Chase dies falling from a fire tower in his twenties, and the investigation of his possible murder, which alternates with the story of Kya's coming-of-age, provides much of the novel's suspense. Because the characters are painted in broad, unambiguous strokes, this is not so much a naturalistic novel as a mythic one, with its appeal rising from Kya's deep connection to the place where she makes her home, and to all of its creatures. Copyright 2018 Booklist Reviews.
PW Reviews 2018 June #3
In Owens's evocative debut, Kya Clark is a young woman growing up practically on her own in the wild marshes outside Barkley Cove, a small coastal community in North Carolina. In 1969, local lothario Chase Andrews is found dead, and Kya, now 23 and known as the "Marsh Girl," is suspected of his murder. As the local sheriff and his deputy gather evidence against her, the narrative flashes back to 1952 to tell Kya's story. Abandoned at a young age by her mother, she is left in the care of her hard-drinking father. Unable to fit in at school, Kya grows up ignorant until a shrimper's son, Tate Walker, befriends her and teaches her how to read. After Tate goes off to college, Kya meets Chase, with whom she begins a tempestuous relationship. The novel culminates in a long trial, with Kya's fate hanging in the balance. Kya makes for an unforgettable heroine. Owens memorably depicts the small-town drama and courtroom theatrics, but perhaps best of all is her vivid portrayal of the singular North Carolina setting.