For years, rumors of the “Marsh Girl” have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl. But Kya is not what they say. Sensitive and intelligent, Kya has survived for years alone in the marsh that she calls home, finding friends in the gulls and lessons in the sand. Then the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. When two young men from town become intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new life—until the unthinkable happens.
One of the strongest themes Dalia Owens cover in her book is motherhood tainted with isolation and deprivation. Kya was the youngest of 4 children who were scaping one by one the claws of violence, frustration, and alcoholism seeded by war and trauma. In a world with the idealization of the knight in shiny armor who becomes the real bearer of nightmares, Kya’s mother turns her back to a life built on illusions and lies. From that moment, all Kya knew about love is that it turns its back on the one who needed it the most. However, in the same novel, we examine how one’s parents can be those that are not related to us by blood, and that love can come from the kindness of strangers since Kya found that maternal love and support from someone that saw her need.
Living Kya to fend for herself, Owens develops the second strongest topic of isolation. The towns’ prejudice drove her even farther away, and they did not let her learn about the world and how to find her place in it. Kya learned how to fend for herself and figured out how to survive in the swamp. Interestingly enough, although Kya was alone, she found in nature the replacement of the nurturing figure that left her. Nature feed Kya and gave her all she needed to become the woman that changed the town. Not only does the swamp feed Kya, but the swamp also allows Kya to learn from it and to learn while Tate though her to read.
The power of learning is always present in the swamp and nature. Tate thought her how to read while hiding in the swamp. Kya learned everything she could from Tate and even read and investigated the swamp. Kya’s thirst for knowledge and love allowed her to learn everything from the swamp and made her famous and independent enough to fend for herself. The novel twists and turns shining different lights over nature and the swamp, and the author conveys how nature can nourish and kill.
In an incredible craft of hiding the truth and knowing the swamps, Owens raised a novel worth investing in. Owens tells us how justice and law do not always go hand in hand and how isolation can make us appreciate the world even more than those who live in the cities.
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