Is Where the Crawdads Sing Based on a True Story?

‘Where the Crawdads Sing’ is a mystery drama film directed by Olivia Newman (‘First Match’) that follows Catherine “Kya” Clark, a resourceful young girl who grows into difficult adulthood. A tumultuous relationship with football star Chase Andrews leads to her getting roped into a murder investigation as a key suspect. Given the film’s grounded nature and emotional narrative, it is natural for viewers to wonder whether it is inspired by actual events. If you are wondering whether ‘Where the Crawdads Sing’ is based on a true story, here is everything we have gathered on the matter!

Is Where the Crawdads Sing a True Story?

No, ‘Where the Crawdads Sing’ is not based on a true story. The film is adapted from the eponymous fictional novel by author Delia Owens, who gained extensive experience working as a zoologist before trying her hand at writing. Owens’ ‘Where the Crawdads Sing’ was first published in 2018 and became a best-selling novel. In an interview, the Thomasville, Georgia, native author opened up about the creation of the novel’s story, setting, and characters.

Owens revealed that she decided to set the story in the coastal marsh of North Carolina as she spent time in the marshes as a child. She was familiar with the land and its history and felt little had been written about life in North Carolina’s coastal marsh, hence picking it as a backdrop for her story. Moreover, she stated that the book deals with the worldview and life story of an isolated individual, Kya.

To craft Kya’s character, Owens channelized her personal experiences of spending a majority of her adult life in isolation. The zoologist/writer recounted that she lived nearly seven and a half years in the Kalahari Desert in Africa with her former husband, isolated from human civilization. While camping near the Luangwa River in Zambia, Owens was utterly alone; she resorted to forming a bond with nature, representing the same in her novel through Kya.

Additionally, the author said that Kya represents awkwardness and a sense of insecurity she herself feels while interacting with humans. During her time researching animals in Africa, Owens learned a lot about the behavior of mammals, and she also incorporated these elements into her story to give it more depth. In the book, the protagonist is implicated in a murder case, whereas in reality, the writer and her then-husband, Mark Owens, were involved in a homicide case during their time in Zambia.

The family was the subject of the 1996 documentary ‘Deadly Game: The Mark and Delia Owens Story.’ The documentary features the killing of a local poacher allegedly committed by Christopher Owens, Delia Owens’ stepson. However, the family has denied any involvement in the killing. While there is speculation that Owens’ experiences with the killing in Zambia loosely inspired the storyline for her novel, the author hasn’t confirmed the same. Therefore, viewers of the film adaptation should take any similarities with a grain of salt.

The book’s popularity has resulted in a film adaptation directed by Olivia Newman, who stated that Owens’ novel is a story of a woman’s resilience and struggle for survival, and these themes attracted her to adapt the novel for the screen. The author has expressed praise for the film adaptation of her novel, calling it one of the best book-to-movie adaptations she has seen.

Ultimately, ‘Where the Crawdads Sing’ is a faithful adaptation of Owens’ work- it is immersed in the author’s isolation and bond with nature that she shares with the protagonist. The narrative is derived from Owens’ personal experiences but is completely fictional. It tackles the themes of a woman’s struggle with loneliness and attempts to thrive in a man’s world. Thus, the film is a raw and heartfelt portrayal of its protagonist’s relatable emotional conflicts.

Read More: Where Was Where the Crawdads Sing Filmed?