Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
For years, rumors of the "Marsh Girl" have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. She's barefoot and wild; unfit for polite society. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark. But Kya is not what they say. Abandoned at age ten, she has survived on her own in the marsh that she calls home. A born naturalist with just one day of school, she takes life lessons from the land, learning from the false signals of fireflies the real way of this world. But while she could have lived in solitude forever, the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. Drawn to two young men from town, who are each intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new and startling world - until the unthinkable happens.
Where the Crawdads Sing has topped the The New York Times Fiction Best Sellers of 2019 for 27 non-consecutive. By December 2019, the book has sold over 4.5 million copies, and it has sold more print copies in 2019 than any other adult title, fiction or non-fiction.
If you want another atmospheric, character-driven tale, try these suggestions.
Fifteen-year-old Pearl is squatting in an abandoned boathouse with her father, a disgraced college professor, and two other grown men, deep in the swamps of the American South. Despite the isolation, Pearl feels at home with her makeshift family; the three men care for Pearl and teach her what they know of the world. But while Pearl is out scavenging in the woods one day, she meets Main Boy, who eventually reveals that his father has purchased the property that she calls home.
Turtle Alveston is a survivor. At 14, she roams the woods along the northern California coast. The creeks, tide pools, and rocky islands are her haunts and her hiding grounds, and she is known to wander for miles. But while her physical world is expansive, her personal one is small and treacherous.
It is 1987, and only one person has ever truly understood 14-year-old June Elbus - her uncle, the renowned painter Finn Weiss. Shy at school and distant from her older sister, June can only be herself in Finn's company; he is her godfather, confidant, and best friend. So when he dies, far too young, of a mysterious illness her mother can barely speak about, June's world is turned upside down.