Love, racism, revenge and Southern grit were all in the air last summer thanks to Delia Owens’ historical fiction masterwork Where the Crawdads Sing. Crawdads is a wonderful coming-of-age story that is filled with lush descriptions and a cast of fascinating characters. Check out one of these books if a mosquito from Barkley Cove has you aching for a comparable read.
Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate
In the vein of swampy Southern historical fiction, Before We Were Yours is a surefire hit. It’s a tale of siblings who have been separated from their parents and one other for decades, the scandals and tribulations they experience in the foster care system, and the odd friendships they form as the years pass. The Tennessee Children’s Home Society is based on true events, and is a monument to human nature and finding oneself no matter where life takes you.
The Marsh King’s Daughter by Karen Dionne
Including her husband, Helena Pelletier has kept the horrifying truth about her father secret for years. However, when Helena’s father escapes from prison, a manhunt is launched, and Helena realizes that she is the only person who has a chance of locating her dad. The Marsh King’s Daughter is an exciting, nature-filled narrative about the bond between a captor and a captive in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.
The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah
The Great Alone, Kristin Hannah’s follow-up to her hugely acclaimed The Nightingale, is a tale of loneliness, resiliency, and the impact society has on private affairs. Recovering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a Vietnam POW relocates his family to isolated Kaneq, Alaska, to avoid the Armageddon he believes is imminent in the Lower 49. In the Alaskan wilderness, Ernt Allbright discovers a group of men who share his interests. However, the lives of his wife and daughter are adversely affected by this discovery. Kya-like Leni, the protagonist of The Great Alone, relies heavily on her survival instincts and responds to the risk of being a victim of circumstance in a similar fashion to Kya.
Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata
Store with Convenience Women’s Keiko is a reclusive and habitual individual. When Keiko’s well-established routine is abruptly disrupted, the dilemma of whether or not she must conform arises. While Keiko and Kya have quite different day-to-day personalities, they both follow their own unique drum beats, which is a trait that unites the two characters.
Golden Child by Claire Adam
To see how a person can succeed in life despite the constraints placed on them, read Claire Adam’s Golden Child. Similar to Crawdads, Golden Child focuses on the impact of betrayal and familial dysfunction, and its matter-of-fact tone is also reminiscent of Kya’s emotional dissociation from much of her human settings, in favor of her natural environs.
Beartown by Fredrik Backman
For all intents and purposes, Beartown tells the tale of a crime committed by a member of the town’s hockey team. However, at its foundation, this is a narrative about small-town politics, the acts that people are willing to ignore because of someone’s status in society and the ripple effect of just one person speaking up When it comes to the citizens of Barkley Cove’s small-scale nationalism and the way they view the world around them, the city of Beartown is very much like Barkley Cove.
The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
While Crawdads has a distinctly Southern feel to it, The Secret Life of Bees has an almost parallel universe-esque narrative. You might wonder, “What if Kya had Rosaleen to watch over her?” in this coming-of-age story that is full of southern charm and grit. Crawdads will have you pondering the significance of a mother’s absence in light of Sue Monk Kidd’s novel and the role of moms and women.
Sycamore, by Bryn Chancellor
Suffused with whispers and intrigue, Sycamore by Bryn Chancellor tells the narrative of an awkward adolescent coming of age. When a newcomer arrives in the town of Sycamore, Arizona, and stumbles upon bones and human remains while hiking, things begin to heat up.
Jess Winters, a local girl who vanished 18 years ago and has never been discovered, is feared to be buried here. The story is told from the point of view of the town as a whole, with individuals who were most affected by Jess’s disappearance revealing flashbacks that gradually explain what happened.
Chancellor has crafted an atmospheric, multi-voiced tale of desire, loneliness, grief, love, and the forces that drive human nature.
Sycamore will appeal to fans of Where the Crawdads Sing who appreciate intrigue and the people of tiny communities.
Educated, by Tara Westover
Because it tells the narrative of one woman’s effort to rise above the limitations placed on her by the people around her because of her upbringing, Educated by Tara Westover has been included on this list of books like Kya’s struggles in Where the Crawdads Sing.
Educated tells the narrative of how Westover, who was raised in the beautiful but secluded mountains of Idaho by a Mormon family, overcame her upbringing in seclusion to be admitted into a Ph.D. program at Cambridge University.
It was not until Westover was seventeen that she began her formal education, which included a four-year college degree.
In Educated, a real-life coming-of-age narrative, we follow a young woman’s courage and determination as she uses books to help her escape one life and enter another. If you enjoyed Kya’s character traits in Where the Crawdads Sing, you’ll enjoy Westover just as much.
List of books like Where the Crawdads Sing is a modern take on the coming of age tale. With a strong cast of female protagonists on a journey for love, belonging, and friendship, the stories are laced with intrigue, evocative imagery, and a variety of fauna.
This list has taken a look around the world, from Arizona to Alaska to Northern Ireland, and found some notable and award-winning authors to add to Delia Owens’s list.