This debut novel reads like a mash-up of Educated and Wuthering Heights. To blend the stories, the author provides a made-for-movies murder trial as the tantalizing secondary plot to pull us through to the end. Crawdads indicts developers who ruin the natural environment in the name of progress and condemns short-sighted townsfolk who can’t transcend their narrow prejudices. It elevates the pure souls who find each other in the end. But, for me, fidelity is the book’s universal theme: Kaya’s loyalty to a family that leaves her, a first boyfriend who spends his life making up for infidelity, Chase paying with his life for jilting her, Jumpin’ and Mable for their unwavering connection. Its characters tend toward stereotypes, the plot is melodrama, and the murder plot outcome is disappointingly contrived, with no plausible explanation of how it could be so and how the authorities missed it. Still, it’s a good read, weighty enough to be meaningful but light enough to be quick and entertaining.

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