Why Is Where the Crawdads Sing So Controversial?

Daisy Edgar-Jones as Kya in Where the Crawdads Sing
Credit: Netflix

Daisy Edgar-Jones as Kya in Where the Crawdads Sing
Credit: Netflix

Even though Where the Crawdads Sing is now available on Netflix, the movie was actually released in September 6, 2022. After watching the film, many have praised its well-written story and the stellar performance by its cast. But despite its success, the movie is actually hooked with a controversy surrounding its original material's writer.

Here's what we know about Where the Crawdads Sing controversy:

What Is Where the Crawdads Sing Story About?

Where the Crawdads Sing author, Delia Owens in an interview with CBS Sunday Morning
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Credit: CBS Sunday Morning

Where the Crawdads Sing is actually a live-action adaptation of a bestselling novel written by Delia Owens. The book, released in August 14, 2018, has actually sold 12 million copies by January 2022. This gives it the title as one of the best-selling books of all time.

The movie follows a young girl named Kya, who lives by herself in North Carolina marshland. She was abandoned by her family and ostracized by the local community. This forces Kya to opt to live by herself away from civilization.

The novel places the character in two different timelines set in the 50s and 60s: Kya's childhood and present, where she is currently on trial for allegedly murdering the town's star football player.

It may all look innocent and ordinary, that is, until you find out the controversy surrounding the author of Where the Crawdads Sing.

Why Is Where the Crawdads Sing So Controversial?

Daisy Edgar-Jones as Kya in Where the Crawdads Sing
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Credit: Netflix

In the mid 1990s, the author, Delia Owens, actually lived in Zambia's North Luangwa National Park with her (now) ex-husband, Mark Owens. Together, they operate a conservation center that aims to protect wild elephants from poachers. Mark actually had a team of 60 game scouts who were all tasked to hunt poachers in the vicinity.

Unfortunately, a poacher was found dead in the area and forced the author to exit Zambia with her family. In addition to a murder charge, Delia and Mark were accused of harboring archaic ideas about the local residents. Many believed they cared more about the African landscape and wildlife instead of the people who resided there.

Did Kya Kill Chase in Where the Crawdads Sing?

Daisy Edgar-Jones as Kya in Where the Crawdads Sing
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Credit: Netflix

The fictional character was eventually found not guilty of murdering Chase. This is because the persecutors believed Kya lacked the ability to plan the murder carefully.

But as we later discover in the film, Kya actually planned things out carefully. In the final moments of the film, we find a much-older Tate discovering a necklace in Kya's belongings. This was the necklace that Chase wore. The movie later reveals that Kya was the murderer all along.

Delia Owens Murder Charge

Reese Witherspoon with Where the Crawdads Sing author, Delia Owens
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Credit: CBS Sunday Morning

The Owens were then investigated for the homicide of the killed poacher. Investigative authorities repeatedly questioned the author. Unfortunately, she failed to give useful information that would potentially help the investigators.

Even though the couple continue to deny the accusations made against them, they are unable to return to Zambia.

Delia was not treated as a suspect or of disposing the body. In an interview with the New York Times in 2019, Delia said:

"I was not involved. There was never a case, there was nothing."

Instead, many believe that it was Mark's son, Christopher Owens, who killed the poacher. So when the movie made its premiere, it opened up a bag of worms. The case in Zambia continues to be open at this time. The Owens family are wanted for questioning.

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What’s the Controversy About the Book?

Daisy Edgar-Jones as Kya in Where the Crawdads Sing
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Credit: Netflix

After releasing her book, many couldn't help but compare the similarities of the case and the plot of the novel. This led many people to believe Delia based the events of the book to her own life-- that particular chapter in Zambia.

In fact, The Atlantic journalist and editor-in-chief Jeffrey Goldberg, covered the story extensively. Apart from the circumstantial similarities, the name of the jailhouse cat in the story (Sunday Justice) is the same as a man the Owens knew in Zambia.

Daisy Edgar-Jones as Kya in Where the Crawdads Sing
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Credit: Netflix

In the book, Kya is suspected to have murdered the star football player. Despite the allegations and judgmental looks by people surrounding her, Kya continued to deny these accusations and claimed she was innocent.

Since Delia continues to do the same, many perceive that Where the Crawdads Sing is based on the author's own experience.

The conclusion of the film, however, is quite similar to Delia Owens' own situation with her ex-husband. And people continue to wonder if this is a case of art depicts real life.

There has not been any progress made in the case. The Owens have declined to answer questions and have not returned to Zambia.

The case is still open at this point.


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