On the face of things, Where the Crawdads Sing is about murder. But this isn't your typical, fast-paced whodunit. Even when the plot moves into the investigation stage the story takes its time, much like the water Kyra lives on, winding between the present and past. A victim of her circumstances, Kyra is alone in the world at the age of 10. As a young woman, Kyra has limited interactions with the town and its people. Her world revolves around the swamp and marsh, necessity bringing her to the edge of town and thereby society. As she grows up we see more of her inner turmoil: the desire to belong and be a part of society, to have friends struggling against the simultaneous impulse to hide, to give in to mistrust, to shun the outside world. Owens puts into words, the desire to find one's place and the push-pull that connecting to other people brings.
Kyra's surroundings are so fundamental to her being, they almost become a separate character of the story. Owens does a superb job of describing the North Carolina marsh that Kyra lives in. While parts of the story are a bit unbelievable, the overall emphasis on human connections and feelings of longing and belonging are very moving.