There are a number of questions (about the ending, explanations, other spoilers, etc.) that get asked pretty frequently about this book, so I thought I’d just answer them here.
For the full review and a detailed summary of the plot, see the Summary and Review for Where the Crawdads Sing.
Where can I find a full plot summary of Where the Crawdads Sing?
Right here! Summary and Review for Where the Crawdads Sing. There’s a short/quick version and a longer, more detailed version. (Note: you’ll need to scroll to the very end of the post and click “Show/Hide the Detailed Plot Summary (Spoilers)”)
What is the meaning of the title of the book “Where the Crawdads Sing”?
The meaning of the title “Where the Crawdads Sing” comes from Delia Owens’s childhood experiences (something her mother used to say). It’s also a phrase that the character of Tate says in the book.
In Chapter 17, when Tate and Kya are looking for a place to hang out, Tate suggests that they go somewhere “where the crawdads sing.” He explains to Kya that it means “far in the bush where critters are wild, still behaving like critters.” In other words, he’s suggesting they go off somewhere far from other people, deep into nature.
From the book: “Well, we better hide way out there where the crawdads sing. I pity any foster parents who take you on.” Tate’s whole face smiled.
“What d’ya mean, where the crawdads sing? Ma used to say that.” Kya remembered Ma always encouraging her to explore the marsh: “Go as far as you can—way out yonder where the crawdads sing.”
“Just means far in the bush where critters are wild, still behaving like critters.”
Throughout out the book, Delia Owens’s writing shows a great fondness for the natural world. Her past work (as a wildlife scientist in Africa), as well as the title of this novel, are a reflection of this.
Delia Owen discusses the origins of this phrase and how it relates to her life in an interview with Hello Sunshine. “When I was a young girl growing up in south Georgia, my mother encouraged my girlfriends and me—whether we were exploring on foot or riding our horses—to venture as far into the oak forests as we could go. She wanted me to experience true nature, to find that place where the deer and foxes still behaved as they always had in the wild. She’d say, “Go way out yonder where the crawdads sing.” And we did.”
What happens at the end of Where the Crawdads Sing? Does Kya kill herself in Where the Crawdads Sing?
As the years pass, Jumpin’ passes away, and Jodie gets married and has kids that he brings by. The village grows into a city, but Tate and Kya never visit either way.
Kya does not kill herself. Instead, she passes away at 64 while she’s out in a boat collecting stuff (“her heart had quietly stopped”). Tate has “The Marsh Girl” inscribed on her headstone.
As Tate goes to look through her possessions he finds a hidden compartment with poems by a local author (these are referenced throughout the book). He realizes the poet was Kya, writing under a nom de plume all these years. There is one poem about murdering Chase, and with it is Chase’s missing shell necklace, tying her to his murder.
Who Killed Chase Andrews? Did Kya (“The Marsh Girl”) Murder Chase in Where the Crawdads Sing? How did Chase Andrews die? And why was he killed?
If you read the poem (see the full text of it below) that’s with the necklace, you’ll see how it clearly describes the situation with Chase and what happened. She lured him to the tower and then she left the grate over the last stair open so he could fall through. (“The last step, a trap. Down, down he falls, His eyes still holding mine / Until they see another world.”)
The necklace ties Kya to the murder because Chase was supposed to have worn it all the time, but it was missing from the scene of the crime. Instead, Tate realizes that Kya has had the necklace all along.
I think the question of “why” Kya chooses to kill Chase (and whether it was justified) is something that’s up for book clubs to debate. Obviously, legally it was definitely not justified. Kya had a lot of reasons to dislike Chase. He dated, tricked and cheated on Kya (he was seeing someone else so he wouldn’t introduce her to people and got engaged while he continued letting her believe he wanted to marry her). Then after all that, he later goes back to see her and attempts to sexually assault her.
Beyond that, after the sexual assault, she worries that he will feel the need to have the “last word” after she left him sprawled on the dirt, and she doesn’t want to live in fear waiting for him to come at her again (“She’d learned over and over from Pa: these men had to have the last punch. Kya had left Chase sprawled on the dirt. The two old fishermen had probably seen her flatten him. As Pa would have it, Kya had to be taught a lesson.” “Chase would not let this go. Being isolated was one thing; living in fear, quite another.”).
The assault happens on August 30th and a month later he’s dead.
How is Kya able to contact Chase to lure him to the fire tower?
It’s not really stated how exactly she lures him to fire tower. We know that she does because it’s referenced in her poem, the Firefly (reproduced below). We also know that it probably wasn’t via phone (during trial, the hotel manager, Mr. Lang Furlough, mentions that she was oddly unfamiliar with how to use the telephone). But she could have left Chase a note or something.
Was Kya in a disguise as the man on bus #1 or the old lady on bus #2 that’s mentioned in trial? Could Kya have gone back and forth from Greenville to Barkley Cove in that timeframe?
Kya’s alibi is that she was in Greenville, meeting with her publisher, on the day Chase was killed. This is confirmed by her publisher. She traveled there by bus (Jumpin’ had to explain to her how to buy a bus ticket). However, the detectives determine that it’s possible to travel by bus from Greenville to Barkley and back in one night.
Larry Price (the bus driver for the 11:50 P.M. bus from Greenville to Barkley Cove) says there was no one on the bus that resembles Kya. But Price also says there was “a skinny passenger on that bus who could’ve been a tall woman disguised as a man”. It was a young white man, approximately 5′ 10”, kept his head down.
John King (the bus driver for the 2:30 P.M. bus from Barkley Cove to Greenville) also says there was no one on the bus that resembles Kya. But King also says there was an older lady who was “tall like Miss Clark, who had gray hair, short with curls, like a permanent wave.” King, too, acknowledges it could have been Kya in a disguise.
In terms of whether the timing works, at the trial, it’s mentioned that the 11:50 bus was 25 minutes late. It ended up getting in at 1:40 P.M. at night (meaning, it’s an 1 hour and 35 minute bus ride). The return bus departed at 2:30. So, that means there was a 50 minute window for Kya to get from the bus station to the fire tower, kill Chase and return.
At trial, there’s a discussion of whether this was feasible in 50 minutes. The gist of it is that, depending on factors such as her method of travel or the water conditions, it could have been possible.
What happened to the red hat? How did Kya end up with the red hat?
So, the red hat mostly serves to provide intriguing but not definitive evidence at the trial and during the investigation. Here’s everything we know about the hat:
In Chapter 43, Tate offers Kya his red hat because it’s cold. Kya initially declines, but Tate tosses it into her boat. They end up passing it back and forth, but it’s not explicitly stated who ends up with it at the end of the exchange. (“Then they stopped laughing and simply looked at each other as they lobbed the cap back and forth until she motored around the bend.”)
Later, there are red fibers found on Chase’s jacket after he is dead. And there is a red hat found in Kya’s place later. It’s confirmed by the detectives who send it to a lab that it’s an exact match (between the fibers on Chase’s jacket and from the hat in Kya’s place).
At trial, expert evidence is given that the fibers could have been transferred at any time and just remained stuck on there for years (even if washed), so they aren’t definitive proof that Kya was with Chase the night he died. So, in the end, the hat doesn’t really prove anything.
So, the answer is, we don’t know how Kya ends up with the red hat. I think you can assume that either a) Kya ended up with it when she and Tate were tossing it around or b) Kya ended up with it at some other point that she was hanging out with Tate.
Why did Kya keep the shell necklace?
The book does not explicitly state Kya’s reasons for keeping the shell necklace. Presumably though, she saw it as some symbol of her relationship with Chase, possibly a representation of her “taking back” something (her dignity, her pride, her sense of safety, her sense of self worth, etc.) from him.
It’s important to remember that it was originally a gift from Kya to Chase, and it only ends up back in Kya’s hands when she murders him. In killing him, she likely wanted revenge, but also to reclaim some sense of power or something like that. So, you could see it as her taking something back from him when she killed him. At that point, it becomes a symbol of Kya taking herself back or taking back the power in their relationship (or her dignity or something else) which could be the reason she would want to keep this symbol of her reclaiming something she feels he took from her.
Another way to look at it is that it’s a memento of an experience that shaped her as a person for better or for worse, so she wanted to keep it.
Of course, another perfectly legitimate explanation is that she keeps it because it was a necessary literary device to provide affirmative evidence of what happened at the end of the story. :)
Is the town of Barkley Cove, North Carolina a real place? What city was it based on?
Where the Crawdads Sing is set in the fictional coastal fishing town of Barkley Cove in eastern North Carolina. (See the map at the end of this post.) From the trial in the book, we know that it is a 1 hour and 35 minute bus ride away (when traveling in the middle of the night with presumably no traffic) from Greenville, NC.
It unknown what city Barkley Cove was based on. (If you google this question, the city of Asheville sometimes comes up as the answer, but that is not accurate. Asheville is not a coastal town; it’s simply a large city that gets mentioned a few times in the book. Incidentally, it’s also the city where Delia Owens lives.)
What is the poem (The Firefly) at the end of Where the Crawdads Sing?
The full text of The Firefly is below.
Luring him was as easy
As flashing valentines.
But like a lady firefly
They hid a secret call to die.
A final touch,
The last step, a trap.
Down, down he falls,
His eyes still holding mine
Until they see another world.
I saw them change.
First a question,
Then an answer,
Finally an end.
And love itself passing
To whatever it was before it began. A.H.
Is Where The Crawdads Sing based on a true story?
No, Where the Crawdads Sing is a work of fiction.
Delia Owens may have been indirectly involved / associated with a murder in Africa, but it is unrelated to the story in Where the Crawdads Sing. The incident in question is only very tenuously connected to Delia Owens, but if you are curious, feel free to read the discussion of Slate’s Delia Owens expose.
Let’s talk about actual science. Do Crawdads Sing? Like the actual animals?
Yes! Well, sort of. Crawdads don’t exactly sing, but they make noises if you want to count that. According to this aquarium, “Crawdads (also known as Crayfish) make produce sounds through their scaphognathite, which is a thin appendage that draws water through the gill cavity. They move the scaphognathite and produce sound and air bubbles.
They will produce a series of pulse trains that is believed to signal an individual’s presence to other crayfish. It is also believed that they produce sounds to alert other crayfish to predators, or to attract a second predator to prey upon the predator.”
What is the “Marsh Girl” / Kya’s full name in Where the Crawdads Sing? Why is Kya called the “Marsh Girl”?
Kya’s full name is Catherine Danielle Clark. She is nicknamed the “Marsh Girl” because she lives in the nearby swampy marshes on the outskirts of town.
What race is the character of Kya in Where the Crawdads Sing? Is Kya black or Native American?
Kya is not black or Native American. Kya refers to herself as “white trash” at one point, so I think we can safely assume that she and her family are white.
Is there a Where the Crawdads Sing movie or film adaptation?
A movie adaptation of Where the Crawdads Sings is in active development. For all the details, see Everything We Know about the Where the Crawdads Sing Movie.
Where can I find the map of (the fictional town of) Barkley Cove?
Right here! This map of (the fictional town of) Barkley Cove, North Carolina is from the e-book version of Where the Crawdads Sing.
Still confused over something? Drop a comment below and I’ll try to answer if I can! :)