Where The Crawdads Sing is the wildly successful debut fiction novel by Delia Owens, topping the New York Times fiction bestseller list for 27 weeks straight and in 2022 was adapted into a feature film.
No wonder then that people can’t get enough of this novel and want to read more like it! Where The Crawdads Sing is a coming-of-age story combined with a murder mystery that tells the tale of Kya Clark.
An outcast living in the small town of Barkley Cove, she was abandoned by her family at a young age and hasn’t experienced much beyond the marshlands she calls home and that she knows like the back of her hand.
The story is told over two timelines that gradually come together, one timeline concerns Kya and the other timeline concerns the death of a local celebrity named Chase Andrews.
Where The Crawdads Sing paints a beautifully immersive picture of the marshlands and wildlife along the coastline of North Carolina and is a haunting, thrilling tale of survival, loss, hope, and love.
Below you will find 8 books that also contain breathtaking, vivid descriptions of beautiful and often hostile environments, multi-faceted female protagonists you’re guaranteed to get drawn in by, as well as themes of independence, loneliness, love, family, and trauma.
If you enjoyed reading Where The Crawdads Sing, and love fantastic thrilling novels with a complex female protagonist then you will love adding books such as Circe, The Great Alone, and My Absolute Darling to your reading list.
Themes In Where The Crawdads Sing
In Where The Crawdads Sing, survival is framed as an integral, primal human skill that we develop in the face of loss and trauma.
The protagonist, Kya, is abandoned as a child by her mother and older siblings, escaping Kya’s abusive father and their rundown, remote home. This is also a survival tactic, as Kya’s mother and her children escape so they themselves can survive.
Left alone with her alcoholic father, Kya soon learns how to acquire food and cook in order to survive. As well as learning practical survival skills, she must learn emotional survival skills like how to cope with her volatile father.
So while she is very much isolated in the marshlands, she still undergoes a tragic emotional education and learns how to fight back against his violence so she is equipped to make it through dangerous situations.
Independence Vs Human Connection
Abandonment is at the center of Where The Crawdads Sing, and Owens explores the importance of being an independent person and being self-reliant in the novel.
Kya is 7 years old when her last family member leaves her, and she is all alone in the remote marshlands.
All alone, she becomes self-sufficient in order to survive, and one aspect of her self-sufficiency is a strong sense of independence that makes her wary of others, even if they mean her no harm.
In this way, Owens explores the downsides of becoming too independent and self-reliant. You miss out on making fulfilling, beneficial connections with others. For example, Kya is initially distrustful of Tate, an older boy who tries to help her.
Despite his kindness, she doesn’t trust him at first, but gradually she grows closer to him and realizes how important it is for even the most self-sufficient of people to have some kind of support system in their lives.
However, Tate eventually has to leave her to pursue a college education, and this just reaffirms Kya’s initial, protective belief that she cannot rely on anybody but herself, despite how much she wants to connect with others.
While for most of the novel, Kaya continues to believe that she cannot trust anyone, she eventually accepts Tate’s love when years later he finally proves to her that he wishes he never abandoned her.
Coming Of Age
Growing up or coming of age is portrayed as learning through experiences, either good or bad, in Where The Crawdads Sing.
While Kya doesn’t have a formal education she still learns about the world around her, even if she doesn’t have access to classrooms or textbooks.
In fact, the education she receives growing up in the marshlands is more holistic, and her gaining of knowledge symbolizes her maturity.
This patchwork way of learning gives Kya a deep appreciation for knowledge because self-learning is what helps her mature as a person without the usual role models of parents or teachers to guide her.
In fact, Tate is the only one who tries to help Kya in her education, teaching her how to read and opening up whole new worlds for her.
Tate also gives her an emotional education too, as it’s through her romance with Tate that she learns about young love and discovers her sensuality.
Books Like Where The Crawdads Sing
Set in the distant, nebulous past of ancient, mythological Greece, Circe explores female empowerment, isolation, and self-sufficiency in a hostile, wild landscape much like Where The Crawdads Sing.
Circe is a goddess and the daughter of Helios, a sun god, and powerful titan. Despite being a goddess she is seen as weak and plain by her siblings and feels deep empathy toward mortals.
She has a deep fascination with the mortal world, feeling like that is where she belongs. But Circe isn’t just a goddess, but a witch.
As she learns more about her powers and how to harness them, she grows in confidence and discovers a sense of purpose. But when a spell goes wrong she is exiled to the remote island of Aeaea.
Circe soon makes Aeaea her home and thrives on the island, encountering many famous figures of Greek mythology such as Daedalus, the Minotaur, Medea, Jason, and, most famously, Odysseus – a man who greatly affects her life, and who many people associate Circe with due to her role in Homer’s epic poem, The Odyssey.
- Beautifully written.
- Themes of feminism and gender roles that resonate even today.
- Intriguing, well-developed female protagonist.
- Might not appeal to those uninterested in Greek mythology.
Themes: Independence vs human connection, being an outsider, mortality.
Set in the sublime, rugged landscape of Cornwall, Rebecca is an eerie, gothic tale by the famed author, Daphne Du Maurier.
The nameless protagonist is known only as Mrs. De Winter and is a young woman who falls in love with her older husband, Maxim while he is holidaying in Monaco.
The two marry quickly, and while Mrs. De Winter knows that Maxim is widowed, it’s only when she returns to Maxim’s estate, Manderley, does she realize how large Rebecca’s shadow looms.
This sense of unease is heightened by the antagonistic Mrs. Danvers, the intimidating housekeeper who is fiercely loyal to Rebecca, and the mysterious circumstances of Rebecca’s death (If you want more mystery, check out Cain’s Jawbone and other books like it right here).
A thrilling, chilling novel, Rebecca is just as enjoyable to read today as it was in 1938 when it was first released.
- A classic novel was written by a well-respected author.
- Du Maurier explores the concept of an unreliable, unnamed protagonist masterfully.
- Has a gothic element to it.
- Might not appeal to those who prefer more modern work.
Themes: Identity, gender roles, abuse.
Before We Were Yours is a 2017 novel based on a real-life scandal and is a thrilling, uplifting, and heart-wrenching story of familial love, sibling bonds, and the emotional impact of secrets.
Much like Where The Crawdads Sing, Before We Were Yours follows two narratives that take place in two different time periods.
One is set in Memphis in 1939 and focuses on 12-year-old Rill Foss and her four younger siblings who become embroiled in a kidnapping conspiracy.
The children wind up in the Tennessee Children’s Home Society Orphanage, and we follow Rill as she struggles to be a quasi-parental figure to her younger siblings and keep her family together.
The second narrative is set in South Carolina in the present day and follows Avery Stafford, a rich public prosecutor who is soon to marry her handsome, successful fiancé in an extravagant wedding.
But her perfect life is turned upside down by a chance encounter and takes her on a journey into her family history.
Those who loved the interweaving and intersecting narratives and family themes of Where The Crawdads Sing, will love Before We Were Yours.
- Similar setting to Where The Crawdads Sing.
- Makes use of interweaving narratives like Where The Crawdads Sing.
- Based on a real-life story.
- Some might find the interweaving narratives hard to follow.
Themes: Family, secrecy, trauma.
Like Where The Crawdads Sing, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine was also an option for Reese Witherspoon’s book club, and is a story of loneliness, friendship, unrequited love, and isolation, emphasizing the importance of empathy and kindness.
The novel tells the story of Eleanor Oliphant, an intelligent 29-year-old woman who is also very socially awkward. She also leads a very regimented life.
Her haircut hasn’t changed since she was 13, she eats the same lunch every day, and drinks two bottles of vodka every weekend.
However, she has a chance encounter with the charismatic, handsome lead singer of a local band that causes her to throw her old routine out the window.
Eleanor convinces herself the handsome singer is the love of her life, and while we follow her on her hilarious journey to find love, we also find out about Eleanor’s rocky past and why she behaves the way she does.
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is a strange novel that is guaranteed to get you thinking. It perfectly balances sadness, warmth, and humor for a delightful read.
- Well-developed, fascinating female protagonist.
- Good balance between warmth and sadness.
- The novel is a lot lighter than Where The Crawdads Sing.
- May not be thrilling enough for fans of Where The Crawdads Sing.
Themes: Friendship, loneliness, trauma.
While Tara Westover’s Educated is a memoir, it has such similar themes to Where The Crawdads Sing we had to include it on our list. It tells Westover’s story of triumphing against the odds and breaking out of the boundaries her family had placed on her.
Westover comes from a Mormon family and was raised in the beautiful but isolated mountains of Idaho.
Educated tells us her story of leaving her sheltered life and getting accepted onto a Ph.D. course at Cambridge University, despite not receiving a formal education until she was 17.
Westover beautifully details her daily struggles to fit into a world outside of her mountain home. Educated is a true coming-of-age story that illustrates Westover’s ambition to find a life beyond what she knows by pursuing education.
If that is a theme that particularly resonated with you in Where The Crawdads Sing, then we’re sure you will love Educated.
- Inspiring real-life story.
- Raw, honest writing.
- Similar to Where The Crawdads Sing, despite being a memoir rather than a work of fiction.
- Might not be appealing to those who prefer works of fiction.
Themes: Independence, education, resilience.
Milkman by Anna Burns takes place in Northern Ireland and in a town whose name we’re never told. Milkman was the recipient of the 2018 Man Booker Prize and is a coming-of-age story set in the 1970s during The Troubles.
One of the most striking aspects of Milkman is the unique voice of the protagonist, Middle Sister, which remains consistent throughout the novel.
Told in the first person, Middle Sister is a shrewd, funny, and resilient woman who is being harassed by a man she simply calls the Milkman.
The Milkman is a married, older man with a political agenda, and the attention he gives to Middle Sister makes her the talk of their small town. In the turbulent, hostile time period she lives in, this attention is very dangerous.
Milkman is an effective story about the power of judgment and gossip in small communities, and the unnamed town in Milkman is as harsh as the North Carolina marshlands – though for very different reasons.
- Has a misunderstood female protagonist just like Kya in Where The Crawdads Sing.
- Would appeal to those who enjoy historical fiction as the novel is set in the thick of a turbulent time in history.
- The unique, engaging style of writing.
- Some readers found the novel overly complicated and hard to follow.
Themes: Ostracism, gender roles, politics.
My Absolute Darling is the fictional debut of Gabriel Tallent and has been praised by critics for how it portrays an intense, volatile, and complex relationship between father and daughter. While the novel is difficult to read sometimes, it’s absolutely worth it.
The novel is set on the California coast and tells the story of Julie ‘Turtle’ Alveston, who doesn’t do well in school but is extremely skilled at shooting, a skill she learned from her sociopathic, abusive father.
My Absolute Darling is a thought-provoking novel that details the abuse Turtle faces at the hands of her father, as well as the Stockholm Syndrome she experiences as she both loves and fears him.
However, when her father brings home another young girl, Turtle realizes she has to end the cycle of abuse once and for all. Turtle very much reminds us of Kya, especially her strength, resilience, and survival skills when faced with impossible odds.
- A similar protagonist and father-daughter relationship feature in Where The Crawdads Sing.
- An empowering story.
- Plenty of thrilling twists and turns.
- Some readers might find it challenging to read.
Themes: Abuse, survival, power dynamics.
The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah was an instant hit on the New York Times Bestseller list and is a brutal, unpredictable story set in the beautiful, hostile wilds of Alaska. Ernt Allbright comes home from the Vietnam War completely changed.
He is aggressive, unpredictable, and unable to cope with everyday life. As he struggles to hold down a job and live a stable life he makes the impulsive decision to escape to Alaska with his wife and daughter, a 13-year-old named Levi, to live off the grid.
Everything seems fine at first, and they enjoy their new life.
But when the harsh, unforgiving winter settles in and they find themselves living in 18 hours of darkness every day, they discover they can’t outrun the events of the past, and their new life starts to disintegrate.
The Great Alone is a story of loss, frailty, and love, as well as the conflict of man vs nature, much like Where The Crawdads Sing, where the isolated landscape itself informs the emotions of the characters.
- Beautifully describes the volatile setting of the novel.
- Explores how trauma can affect us and our relationships with others.
- A thrilling, almost gothic story.
- Some readers found the novel too depressing.
Themes: Trauma, family, man vs nature.
Where The Crawdads Sing has captured the imaginations of readers all over the world due to its compelling female protagonist, beautifully depicted setting, and poignant themes of loneliness, human connection, trauma, and resilience.
Our 8 book recommendations for novels similar to Where The Crawdads Sing does an excellent job of conveying some or all of these elements.
Circe, The Great Alone, and My Absolute Darling are novels that tackle themes of loneliness, ostracism, and resilience, and are set in hostile, beautiful environments.
Meanwhile, Before We Were Yours and Rebecca have mysteries at the center of their stories, and Before We Were Yours also has two intersecting narratives like Where The Crawdads Sing.
We hope that our article has helped you find your new favorite book! If you’re a fan of Where The Crawdads Sing we believe you will find these books just as poignant and gripping.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Does Taylor Swift Have To Do With Where The Crawdads Sing?
Taylor Swift wrote a song for the film adaptation of Where The Crawdads Sing, called Carolina.
Why Is Where The Crawdads Sing Controversial?
Where The Crawdads Sing has been criticized for its depiction of the novel’s black characters. Many believe the depictions of characters of color to be stereotypical, especially because the author of the novel, Delia Owens, is a white woman.
If you liked this article, you might enjoy our post, ‘20 Must-Read Mystery Books from Authors Like Louise Penny‘.