Delia Owens’ 2018 thriller “Where the Crawdads Sing” is finally a film after four years and more than 12 million copies sold worldwide. The romantic drama (which is now available on Netflix) is executive produced by Reese Witherspoon, whose Hello Sunshine book club contributed to the novel’s success, which has spent more than 200 weeks on USA TODAY’s Best-Selling Books list, including 16 weeks at No. 1.
Beginning in 1952 and spanning several decades, the film follows Kya (Daisy Edgar-Jones), a reclusive woman who was forced to raise herself after her family abandoned her as a young girl. Kya, who lives alone in a shack on the North Carolina coast, falls for the gentle Tate (Taylor John Smith) and the two-timing Chase (Harris Dickinson), both of whom she meets.
A love triangle quickly turns fatal.
When Chase is discovered dead in a swamp one day, the townspeople – who call Kya “Marsh Girl” – immediately suspect her, and the film alternates between Kya’s courtroom trial and flashbacks leading up to Chase’s murder.
Despite the film’s mostly negative reviews (35% positive on the aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes), fans of Owens’ book may be relieved to learn that the film adaptation is mostly faithful to its source material. Here are five of the most noticeable differences between pages and screens:
- 1 The film ‘Crawdads’ gives less attention to Kya’s parents.
- 2 Kya is more proactive in her efforts to be published in the film.
- 3 Chase’s engagement announcement is more shocking on-screen.
- 4 Kya’s reconciliation with Tate is handled more slowly in the book.
- 5 Amanda Hamilton is dropped from the film.
The film ‘Crawdads’ gives less attention to Kya’s parents.
The roles of Kya’s embattled mother (Ahna O’Reilly) and her angry, alcoholic father (Garret Dillahunt) are significantly reduced for the film. The book provides a sympathetic backstory for them, describing how they overcame social and economic odds to marry during the Great Depression, only to be torn apart by Pa’s heavy drinking and gambling once they started a family. Kya’s mother and siblings leave the house one by one until Kya is the only one left with Pa. He gradually reveals a softer side of himself by teaching Kya to fish and addressing her as “hon.”
Almost all of that is cut for the film, which relegates Kya (Jojo Regina) and others to minor roles. her parents to only a few brief scenes
Kya is more proactive in her efforts to be published in the film.
Kya and Tate gradually fall in love during the first half of the film as he teaches her to read and write. Kya creates detailed sketches of plants, animals, and shells on the side, which Tate believes are good enough to sell. So he gives her a list of wildlife reference book publishers, one of whom Kya meets with in person to sign a contract and negotiate an advance payment.
However, Kya does not become an author until much later in the book, and Tate does more of the groundwork. Years after Tate leaves Kya’s life to attend college and abruptly disappears, he returns to her marshland home to apologize, explaining that he never imagined she’d be able to live with him on the outside world.
He comes inside to look at her drawings and offers to mail them to publishers as a peace offering and a way to keep in touch with Kya. She eventually receives a contract via mail and has her first book published two years later.
Chase’s engagement announcement is more shocking on-screen.
Kya accepts that she may never see or hear from Tate again after he ghosts her when he leaves for college. She cautiously begins dating Chase, who is embarrassed to be seen around town with “the Marsh Girl” and keeps their relationship a secret.
Kya learns to accept the arrangement until she learns that Chase is engaged. Kya runs into Chase and a group of his friends while grocery shopping in the film. Pearl (Caroline Cole), one of them, introduces herself as Chase’s fiancée to a stunned Kya. The reveal is slightly less dramatic in the book, where Kya stumbles across their wedding announcement in the local newspaper one day.
Kya’s reconciliation with Tate is handled more slowly in the book.
Tate mostly disappears from the film after telling Kya that Chase isn’t good enough for her, until the very end, when Kya is found not guilty of murder due to a lack of concrete evidence. In a voiceover, Kya says that Tate is the only man she’s ever truly loved, and she takes a boat out to the marsh, where she finds Tate fishing and kisses him.
There are more scenes in the novel of Kya and Tate rekindling their relationship. When her first book is published, she personally delivers it to him, and he pays her a visit in jail during her trial. Tate discovers a feather on his boat that Kya left for him after she is acquitted.
Amanda Hamilton is dropped from the film.
Kya recites a variety of poems by her favorite writer, Amanda Hamilton, who is relatively unknown throughout the novel. Tate goes through Kya’s journals after she dies and discovers that Amanda was a pen name for Kya, who also wrote a poem ostensibly admitting to Chase’s murder.
Kya’s alias is completely absent from the film. Tate instead discovers Chase sketches in Kya’s old notebooks, along with a shell taped to the back page. Kya gave Chase a shell necklace when they first started dating, but it mysteriously vanished when he was murdered. Tate realizes the shell in Kya’s notebook belongs to Chase and, as in the book, throws it into the water. Before the film fades to black, he throws the shell into the water to conceal the evidence.