I actually bought this book months ago, completely attracted by the cover. However, I only picked it up during lockdown because everyone seemed to be talking about it.
Set in a quiet town in North Carolina in 1969, everyone whispers about the 'Marsh Girl'. The rumours about her have been spreading for years, so when a body is found, Kia becomes the main suspect. But the locals really don't know the Mash Girl at all.
The blurb makes this book sound like a psychological thriller because it focuses heavily on the suspicious death of the town's favourite former high school hottie, Chase Andrews. But really the story is so much more than that. This book is about a child who learns to survive on her own. Kia is shy and sensitive and very much a loner, but she is also acutely intelligent. She learns to adapt to her awful circumstances to become a highly acclaimed biologist, due to the years she has spent studying the marshes. I loved Kia. She learned to live alone and trust no one.
To be honest, I struggled with it at first. It wasn't the writing, as the author created such a hauntingly atmospheric setting, that I felt I could wander through the marshes with my eyes shut. I think it's the latent teacher in me, who kept getting angry that a child had been deserted. I couldn't understand why her mother or her brothers and sisters never checked up on her and I found myself getting annoyed. My heart wept for Kia. The loneliness of her life seeps into your bones.
However, I persevered and boy, am I glad that I did. Once Kia started spending time with Tate, the story really took off for me and I couldn't put it down. Tate is a wonderful character, who goes out of his way to make sure Kia has what she needs as well as teaching her to read, the best gift he could ever give her.
The book focuses on nature and how the female species adapt and survive. Throughout the book, Kia learns from the creatures of the marsh, how to literally save her life. She completely relies on nature to help her grow up and understand the world. Mother Nature never lets her down like the people who have come and gone in her life have.
Kia's story will stay with me for a long time. It's the type of book I would definitely read again. It reminded me of Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg. This book shows that no matter what life gives you to start with, you can always make it better.