This memoir is simply astounding. In it, Tara Westover recounts her experiences growing up in a survivalist family in the mountains of Idaho—she was so isolated from society that she never received an education and never went to a doctor. Her family, like Kya’s, was torn apart by abuse. Tara’s story is very similar to Kya’s because despite the isolation and familial hardships she faces, she embodies strength and independence and achieves great success without having a typical education. If ever there was a book that you should read, it’s this one.
Reverend Willie Maxwell was a rural preacher accused of murdering five of his family members for insurance money in the 1970s. With the help of a savvy lawyer, he escaped justice for years until a relative shot him dead at the funeral of his last victim. Sitting in the audience during the vigilante’s trial was Harper Lee, the author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning To Kill a Mockingbird. Lee spent a year in town reporting, working on her own version of the case. In Furious Hours, Casey Cep brings this story to life. If you loved the history of the South and the courtroom drama and suspense that was laced throughout Where the Crawdads Sing, you’ll want to pick up this book.
Myra Lamb is a wild girl with mysterious, haint blue eyes who grows up on remote Bloodroot Mountain. She is wild, strong, and independent, and her grandmother, Byrdie, protects her fiercely and passes down “the touch” that bewitches people and animals alike. But when John Odom tries to tame Myra, it sparks a shocking disaster, ripping lives apart. This book is a dark and riveting story of family, faith and secrets, and passion and loss. You’ll plow through the pages of Bloodroot and find that in many ways, Myra is like Kya: she grew up in isolation, she is independent and untamed, and a man tries to change her. Plus, the details of the setting in southern Appalachia are remarkable.
Tate and Kya had an unbreakable bond—a love so strong and so natural that it was as if they were a part of one another. They always found themselves drawn back together. It was hard to not root for them to be with each other. Normal People contains a similar love story—a story of mutual fascination, friendship, and love. It centers around two people, Connell and Marianne, and follows their story for several years. Prepare yourself to feel all the feels as Sally Rooney takes you on a journey that follows two people who love each other with everything they have, even when they try to stay apart.
Before and After
From the 1920s to 1950, Georgia Tann ran a black-market baby business at the Tennessee Children’s Home Society in Memphis. She offered up more than 5,000 orphans, hiding the fact that many weren’t orphans at all, but stolen children of poor families, single mothers, and women told in maternity wards that their babies had died. Before and After is a collection of the compelling, poignant true stories of these victims that inspired Lisa Wingate’s bestselling novel Before We Were Yours. In Where the Crawdads Sing, Kya didn’t have a stable family, and was unable to reunite with her mother who left when she was a young child. These true stories capture the same heartbreak, but many of the children have joyfully reunited with family in the final decades of their lives.
Out of the Easy
Out of the Easy is a beautiful work of historical fiction that centers around a young and misunderstood female protagonist. Sound familiar? It’s set in 1950, as the French Quarter of New Orleans simmers with secrets, and follows seventeen-year-old Josie Moraine who is known among locals as the daughter of a brothel prostitute. Josie wants more out of life than the Big Easy has to offer so she devises a plan get out, but a mysterious death in the Quarter leaves Josie tangled in an investigation that will challenge her allegiance to her mother, her conscience, and Willie Woodley, the brusque madam on Conti Street. If you fell in love with Kya and her independence, you’ll also fall in love with Josie, and you’ll ache for her as she faces hatred from her fellow townspeople, just as you did with Kya.
When I heard all of the praise about Where the Crawdads Sing, I was skeptical—could it be that good?
The short answer: Yes. It is that good. I fell in love with Kya Clark, the protagonist, and Delia Owen’s writing. Her grip on the natural world was evident with every word on every page—each description of the marsh transported me there and I swear I could see it all, from the boat to the shack to the shells that Kya collects.
If you, like me, loved Where the Crawdads Sing, I hope you’ll also love these books. No, they’re not exactly the same—no two books could ever really be the same anyway—but they each possess similar characteristics that made me think, “Wow. These belong on the same shelf.” That’s where they live in my home library, and now I’m sharing them with you.
Featured image by Jinny Kwon