I kicked off 2020 with a book that was gifted to me by my college roommate (Mallory appreciation moment). She deemed it as the best book she read in 2019. Of course, she knows I am obsessed with Reese Witherspoon and this book was also featured in her Hello Sunshine Book Club, so it was obviously a must-read novel.
When I tell you I could not put this book down, I mean it. This book is 368 pages long, and I finished it in 10 days. Did I become a hermit? Most definitely. I skipped stayed up late (which I never do) and spent my mornings / evenings on the weekend reading this book. Nothing seemed more enticing to me than staying at home in my sweatpants and reading more about Kya’s life in the marsh.
Basically what I am saying is this book will consume you, but it is such a good ride.
What’s so great about it, anyways?
This is a coming of age story, but it is also a story about survival. About never quitting. About fighting for your place on this Earth. About the constant struggle to find balance between loving and trusting others versus total self-reliance.
While she had a much different life than most of us did, I learned a lot from her about perseverance and grit – how to keep going, no matter what. This book was a great example how in the face of sadness, rejection, exclusion and loneliness, you should never stop fighting for your right to exist and to lead a good life.
There was a time in my own life where I did not want to keep going. Where I felt like it would have been easier to just stop being a part of this Earth – easier for me, and easier for others because then I would stop hurting them with decisions I was making. I look back at this stage in my life and feel so sad that I ever thought it was acceptable to not keep going, or to ever believe that it would be easier for me or for anyone else for me to no longer be here. I hope this book serves as an example to people who are struggling in their lives to not give up, but instead to keep on going, because your life is worth living (cue Justin Bieber Purpose album).
Let’s REMINISCE: Spoiler Alert
Warning: If you have not read the book, stop here. Spoilers below and I don’t want to ruin it for you. Go read this book first, then come back!
First off, can we just talk about how sad her childhood was? Abandoned by her entire family, rejected by society due to her social status, taken advantage of and doubted by people she thought were her friends (I am lookin’ at you too, Tate). I cried several times reading this book as Kya faced so much adversity throughout her young life.
But DAMN, this girl is a fighter and a survivor. She wills herself to live, to have gratitude, and eventually accept love from those who choose to stay. You know what is even more amazing…she remains humble and determined. She doesn’t have a chip on her shoulder, doesn’t ask for handouts, and doesn’t sit around and wait to be saved by a man.
The Plot Twist
Let’s not forget how freakin’ SNEAKY she is!! The entire murder trial, I was thinking to myself “It was Jumpin’…no, it was Tate…no, it was an accident…there is no way it was Kya…no, it was Chase’s wife – serves him right that lying, cheating bastard.”
Boy, was I wrong. If you tell me that you guessed that Tate would find that shell necklace in the floor boards after all those years, finally confirming it actually was Kya who planned all of that out, knowing it would be proven highly unlikely with the timing, I won’t believe you. That is a next level Criminal Minds plot twist!
Kya’s little secret
The entire book, she would be like “A quote one of my favorite poems by Amanda Hamilton…” meanwhile, here she is quoting her own poems that she wrote under her alias name. You are kidding me!! What a woman!!
A published, respected biology author with 10 books about the march, but also a published poet. I guess when you are living by yourself for that many years, you have some time to be introspective and creative in peace.
Kya’s love Stories
My favorite part of this book though was her journey to finding love and family.
First was the Tate and Kya love story.
While I am still not over being upset about Tate abandoning her in college, I also love him for encouraging her publish her collection on the marsh so she could provide a better life for herself.
The best part is he never offered to save her, but instead help her find a way to survive on her own, so that maybe he could be a part of her life in a true partnership. Talk about a modern man! Not to mention the fact that despite an entire community rejecting her and making up rumors about her, Tate never thought of her as any less of person. If anything, he thought Kya was special and better than the whole lot of the racist, classist, sexist community that is Barkley Cove.
The second best love story of this book is the story of family with Jumpin’ and Mabel.
Jumpin’ and Mabel extended their helping hands and open hearts to Kya to help her survive even though they were struggling with their own poverty and facing racism in the Jim Crow era in the South.
They strategically accepted Kya’s small offerings when she was a child, and in turn, provided money, clothing and a source of emotional stability to Kya in her time of need. Kya’s pride and fear kept her from ever asking for help, but Mabel and Jumpin’ were always there for her.
If you didn’t tear up during that scene when Jumpin’ puts Kya’s first published book in his window like a proud parent, you need to check if you have a pulse.
Okay enough ranting, but I just cannot get over how good this book was. I have not read much fiction in the past year (hello, self-help books – remember me?), but I am so glad I kicked off 2020 with this one.
Now the hardest part – which book to ready next? I am starting two books at once to see which one sticks. Stay tuned!