It is a beautifully written story that will stay with me.
The character of Kya Clark is called the “Marsh Girl” by locals. She lives alone in the marshlands off the North Carolina coast in a town called Barkley Cove. She is abandoned there first by her mother, who had endured years of domestic abuse, and then by her father, whose fondness for alcohol brought out his violent side. Kya lives off the grid in a cabin that is ramshackle at best. She is unschooled and hides from the truant officer, who insists that she belongs in school. What she is best at is surviving. She sells mussels to make some cash so she can buy food and gasoline for her boat. She barters and lives simply with no creature comforts. She’s wild, free and very alone.
The setting in North Carolina is vividly painted. I could see the boat slicing through the duckweed, and I could feel the humidity in the air. Kya loves to explore nature and creates art from her finds, charts the gulls’ patterns and watches the tides roll in over the sand. The atmosphere heads back and forth between calm and wild.
Through the years, two very different boys come to be attracted to her. Each will steal part of her heart and then will leave her for very different reasons. When one of these young men, Chase Andrews, a boy from an affluent family, is found dead, Kya becomes the prime suspect. But she has an alibi. There is no way she could have been in the town that night, as she had hopped a bus to meet with her publisher in Asheville, which was hours away. Her gorgeous nature work has been published, and they were meeting about future titles.
The book rolls and unwinds Kya’s story right until the end, where so many pieces come together. I highly recommend it. And book groups, take note: there is a lot to discuss in it, including the beautiful writing.