Tearjerking Books Similar to Where the Crawdads Sings

Between its lush, evocative imagery and its story of the survival of the human spirit, it’s no surprise that Where the Crawdads Sing has become a smashing success. It was even released as a movie this year. If you’re looking to wade further into the marsh and beyond the story of Kya Clark, here are a few other titles that can whet your appetite for love, nature, history, and just a teeny bit of murder. Real books similar to Where the Crawdads Sing have a bite to them! If you liked Where the Crawdads Sing, you’ll love these other books.

1. The Marsh King’s Daughter by Karen Dionne Chilling

If you loved the thick, humid, but strangely serene swamps of Where the Crawdads Sing, you’ll feel right at home in the mists of The Marsh King’s Daughter.

The main character is a seemingly normal woman named Helena. However, Helena she has a secret: She was the product of an abduction. Her father kidnapped her mother, kept her isolated in the marshlands of Michigan, and raised Helena to be a wood-chopping, animal-tracking, knife-wielding survivalist.

Years after Helena gets away, she finds herself having to hunt down her father to prevent him from hurting anyone else. But, much like Kya, she’ll have to weave through painful flashbacks, realize her roots, and maybe even defend her life before she can truly find peace.

The Marsh King's Daughter by Karen Dionne Chilling

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2. Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate

Based on true events, Before We Were Yours follows a young girl and her siblings growing up on a poor shantyboat on the Mississippi River.

One day, they’re seized by the Tennessee Children’s Home Society, and the lives of these poor children are forever changed by the cruel and corrupt adoption scheme running there.

If you liked Where the Crawdads Sing, Before We Were Yours has many similarities, including beautiful prose, a setting that will sweep you away, and ongoing themes of love, survival, and making your own path in the world. It’s also just enough of a thriller to be a real page-turner!

Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate

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3. The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

Trade North Carolina for South Carolina in The Secret Life of Bees.

The story follows a 14-year-old white girl named Lily after the death of her mother and her subsequent, informal “adoption” into a bustling home of black beekeeping sisters. Of course, since the year is 1964, their lives aren’t going to be straight.

There’s also the unresolved issue of her mother’s death to consider. You might be most familiar with the 2008 film version of The Secret Life of Bees, but the book is what started it all, and it topped numerous bestseller lists back in the day.

It offers both humor and heart as it explores the dynamics of family, memory, loss, trauma, and recovery. Like many other books like Where the Crawdads Sing, it’s also chock-full of homespun wisdom that can only come from born-and-bred southerners.

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

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4. The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

Women are at the center of The Nightingale, a historical epic that follows two French sisters during World War II. Vianne and Isabelle couldn’t be more different, but they both wind up resisting the German occupation in their own ways, and their stories take years to unfold.

As a novel, The Nightingale pulls back the curtain on women’s lives and roles in WWII the same way that Where the Crawdads Sing follows the uniquely female perspective of a girl growing up alone in the North Carolina marshes.

Both books have things like estranged fathers, missing husbands, and absent brothers, leaving the women to take center stage. While their settings might be thousands of miles apart, the struggles of female heroines are at the heart of both novels.

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

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5. Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover

Another book based on a true story, Educated: A Memoir tells the incredible tale of a young girl who went from the rural mountains of Idaho to the classrooms of a PhD program at Cambridge University.

Born in a dysfunctional family of survivalists, she was raised to shun society, live off the land, and sneak books into a home filled with stockpiled goods and too many siblings.

In a way, you can think of Tara as “the mountain girl” to Kya’s “the marsh girl.” Both had an unusual, naturalist-based upbringing, and both overcame their circumstances to find happiness in their own way.

Educated is also among books similar to Where the Crawdads Sing because of its strong sense of place. Wavering between dark, beautiful, oppressive, and nurturing, the environment can be considered its own character.

Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover

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6. The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

As you might expect from the title, The Great Alone takes place in a stark and remote place: Alaska.

It doesn’t start that way. In the beginning, 13-year-old Leni enjoys her family’s move to an off-the-grid community in the Alaskan wilderness, even making friends with an eclectic group of local “characters.”

As winter creeps in, however, and the days get longer and darker, the struggles of surviving in Alaska become apparent. Much like Kya, Leni will have to find inner strength and resilience to make it through, especially when the trouble starts coming from inside the house. Nature’s dangers have nothing on people.

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

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7. Where the Line Bleeds by Jesmyn Ward

Where the Line Bleeds shares a key difference with Crawdads: It’s about boys instead of a girl. That said, its protagonists have the same kind of grit as Kya, and their story parallels hers in the sense of survivorship in the economically depressed south.

Set in the Mississippi Gulf, Where the Line Bleeds follows twin brothers Joshua and Christophe as they attempt to escape the cycles of violence and poverty that have defined their family for decades. One brother gets a real job; the other turns to sell drugs.

Their struggle is set against a rich and vivid portrayal of the Gulf and its Creole influences, including quite a bit of phonetic dialogue.

It isn’t the same story as Crawdads, but it isn’t trying to be. Where the Line Bleeds is telling its own version of love, estrangement, and reunion in families.

Where the Line Bleeds by Jesmyn Ward

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8. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

All the Light We Cannot See is an enchanting novel despite its harsh backdrop of World War II.

Between its gorgeous prose, non-linear timelines, and a blend of action and metaphor, it has a somewhat dream-like quality that’s not unlike the fever heat of North Carolina’s marshes.

It’s definitely one of the best books like Where the Crawdads Sing in terms of mood and atmosphere.

The protagonists of the book are Marie-Laure, a blind French girl, and Werner, a German orphan obsessed with radio and its wavelengths. Their love for the unseen is what binds their journeys together in unexpected ways through 1934, 1944, 1940, and beyond.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

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9. Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance by Ruth Emmie Lang

Of the many books like Where the Crawdads Sing, this one departs the most from reality with its magic expressed via natural phenomena. If you enjoy stories with unusual protagonists, however, and especially ones that learn self-reliance at an early age, you’ll love Weylyn.

He was literally raised by wolves! He also travels from town to town, using his connection to nature to combat storms, make plants grow overnight, and communicate with various animals.

His love story revolves around a woman he saved as a young girl but doesn’t have the courage to embrace.

Brimming with quirkiness, Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance is a much lighter novel than Crawdads, but it might hit the spot for you in terms of characters and themes.

Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance by Ruth Emmie Lang

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10. Cry of the Kalahari by Mark Owens and Delia Owens

Written by Crawdads author Delia Owns, Cry Of The Kalahari is an autobiographical book about her and her husband’s time in the Kalahari Desert of Africa.

For nearly seven years, they lived alone and hundreds of miles from civilization, studying local wildlife such as lions, jackals, and hyenas.

Despite lacking a murder mystery plot, Cry Of The Kalahari has many other hallmarks of Crawdads, including themes of isolation and endurance in a setting far from suburban America.

It also has the same expressive writing that’ll make you feel like you’re standing right in the red dirt of Africa and gazing at a sunset blazing over the trees!

Put this book on your shortlist when you’re craving more from Delia Owens.

Cry Of The Kalahari by Mark Owens and Delia Owens

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11. Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver

Unsheltered is a unique novel that moves between two families separated by centuries, living in the same crumbling brick mansion in New England.

21st-century Willa is a housewife struggling to hold her family together amidst the political turmoil of the 2016 election. On the other hand, 19th-century Thatcher is a teacher being rocked by the newest scientific theories of Charles Darwin.

Both will face challenges beyond reckoning as they attempt to make sense of their world and their place within it.

If you enjoyed the evolving timelines of Crawdads, you might like the jumps back and forth in Unsheltered as well. There’s also a rich and diverse range of voices that echoes the many side characters found in the marshes. History is an ever-present theme, too.

Ultimately, if you’re looking for books similar to Where the Crawdads Sing, this one can scratch the itch and then some.

Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver

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12. Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

If you liked Where the Crawdads Sing for its one-of-a-kind protagonist, you might like Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine.

Eleanor is not, in fact, fine. As a former foster child with visible scars, she struggles with social interaction, resulting in a feeling of detachment and isolation from the rest of humanity.

Things start to look up when she meets a young man with his own quirks, but opening your heart after a lifetime of loneliness is easier said than done.

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine isn’t quite as deep as the other books on this list, but it’s still quite moving, and it can help to fill the hole left behind by Kya and Tate.

It’s definitely a contender for books like Where the Crawdads Sing. If you’re looking for an emotional yet ultimately satisfying read, put it on your library card.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

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13. The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

With a compelling mystery at its center, Pulitzer Prize finalist The Snow Child is the kind of novel that will keep you guessing even as you fall headfirst into its unique, breathtaking landscapes.

Set in the 1920s, the book follows an older, childless couple trying to carve a homestead out of the harsh wilderness of Alaska.

One day, after whimsically building a “snow girl” on their land, they find their sculpture melted and a real girl in her place.

She’s young, nearly feral, and trailed by a red fox everywhere she goes. She’s also the only chance the couple might have to raise a child of their own.

Harking back to the old Russian folk tale of “the snow maiden,” this beautiful, lyrical novel seems like a fairy tale itself at times, especially in terms of setting.

While the frozen tundra of Alaska is quite different from the muggy heart of North Carolina’s swamps, it’ll transport you to another world just as surely as Where the Crawdads Sing.

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

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14. Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver

You might know Barbara Kingslover from her other bestselling novel, The Poisonwood Bible, which follows a family migrating to the Congo in 1959.

Prodigal Summer has a similarly lavish and evocative feeling that’s dominated by the setting. But this time, it’s set in the forested mountains of southern Appalachia.

Three stories weave the fabric of Prodigal Summer, including one about a reclusive female wildlife biologist who finds herself falling for a handsome stranger one day. Does that sound familiar?

If you’re looking for books like Where the Crawdads Sing, give Prodigal Summer a try for plot, character, setting, and theme similarities.

Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver

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Collecting Books Like Seashells: Your Next Steps

Kya’s mother said it best: “Go as far as you can – way out yonder where the crawdads sing.”

The world of literature is your North Carolina marsh, and it’s ripe for exploration and self-discovery. Use these books like Where the Crawdads Sing to live your own adventure.

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