Not since 2003’s “The DaVinci Code” has a popular novel been touted quite as much as “Where the Crawdads Sing” by Delia Owens (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2018). Picked up for film adaptation by Reece Witherspoon, this novel is sure to make waves for months to come. On the New York Times Bestseller list almost since its release, “Where the Crawdads Sing” is a veritable coming-of-age American classic told with a female voice.
Dr. Owens, a zoologist and animal behaviorist by trade, has written three other non-fiction works documenting African wildlife. Originally hailing from Georgia, Owens captures perfectly the South and the ambiance of the Carolina Lowcountry, its wildlife, landscape and people in her new novel, translating nature and science into a captivating tale of self-discovery-cum-murder mystery that is hard to put down.
The lead character, Catherine Danielle Clark, watched each member of her family slowly walk away from their shack in the Lowcountry banks of Barkley Cove, North Carolina. Left alone to raise herself at only 6, Catherine, called Kya, creates a facsimile of regular life in the marsh, existing on grits, mussels and greens between occasional visits from her drunken and abusive father. When a local boy, Tate, teaches her to read, she learns from the family Bible that she is actually of patrician heritage and owns the land the shack is built on.
Moving between her tumultuous childhood in the 1950s and her coming of age in 1969, the town’s inhabitants can never get past her image as feral Marsh Girl. When a not-so-reputable young man who had jilted Kya is found dead, all the townspeople obviously point a finger at her, but the ending of the novel is not so obvious. Written with a beauty only a naturalist can conjure, “Where the Crawdads Sing” is a great beach read.
Hear Delia Owens speak at All Souls Unitarian Church in Tulsa on Sept. 26. Tickets went on sale July 1 on the Magic City Books website. In the meantime, fix yourself some shrimp and grits and settle in to read “Where the Crawdads Sing.”
Shrimp and Grits
1 cup Quaker quick cook grits
1 block Velveeta mini
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons canola oil
4 slices bacon, chopped
1 lb. frozen cooked large shrimp (about 30), peeled and deveined
Freshly ground black pepper
6 button mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 tub Knorr homestyle chicken stock
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon. fresh lemon juice, plus 4 lemon wedges
1⁄2 teaspoon hot sauce or to taste
4 green onions, thinly sliced
Make 4 cups grits according to directions, stirring till smooth. Whisk in cheese, dash of garlic powder to taste. Add butter and dash of kosher salt. Heat oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat. Add bacon and cook, stirring occasionally, until crisp, about 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to a paper towel-lined plate; set aside. Reserve cooking fat in skillet.
Season shrimp with salt and pepper. Over medium-high heat, add shrimp to skillet and cook, turning once, until bright pink, about 2 minutes. Transfer shrimp to a plate with a slotted spoon. Lower heat to medium; add mushrooms to skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook until golden, 1 minute. Raise heat to high, add chicken stock and water and scrape bottom of skillet with a wooden spoon. Cook until broth reduces. Return shrimp to skillet along with the lemon juice, remaining butter, and hot sauce and cook, stirring frequently, until sauce thickens, about 1 minute. Divide grits between 4 bowls; top each with shrimp and its sauce. Garnish each bowl with bacon, scallions, and lemon wedges.