It is not often that I find a novel rich in characters and setting that also seamlessly folds in the suspense of a murder mystery. In fact, a plot focused on a wrongful death to the exclusion of a character’s inner struggles and personal growth normally holds no interest for me.
I am drawn to authors who create complex, multi-faceted characters and descriptive prose that plunks me down in the middle of the story—and keeps me there. Writers like Joyce Carol Oates, Alice Hoffman and Elizabeth Strout.
Descriptions That Make Settings Come Alive
I didn’t expect to particularly like this book. It is heavy on science and biology, which you may know are not two of my favorite subjects. But Delia Owens has a gift for making inanimate things— weather, animal and plant life, even houses— interesting by infusing them with human traits and emotions.
On Kya’s house:
They lived with Ma and Pa, squeezed together like penned rabbits, in the rough-cut shack, its screened porch staring big-eyed from under the oaks.
The porch has big eyes.I immediately have an image.
On the marsh and amphibian life:
The darkness held an odor of sweetness, the earthy breath of frogs and salamanders who’d made it through one more stinky-hot day. The marsh snuggled in closer…
The “earthy breath” of the marsh animals. The marsh that “snuggled in.”
On the town and the climate:
Sharp, salty air had weathered the cedar-shingled building to the color of rust…Mostly, the village seemed tired of arguing with the elements, and simply sagged.
The village stopped arguing with the weather. I can picture that, can’t you?
Here’s another one, this time the low-lying fog, spread across the horizon like fingers. We have days like this at the beach:
Kya watched low fingers of fog reaching for their boat.
On the sea:
As she rounded the tall grass, suddenly the ocean’s face—grey, stern and pulsing—frowned at her.
A face frowning. A common thing, except when the face belongs to the ocean.
I highly recommend this novel— for the pure enjoyment of reading it and for the lessons it can teach us about exceptional writing.