This Friday brings the eagerly awaited release of “Where the Crawdads Sing,” the Reese Witherspoon-produced film version of Delia Owens’ phenomenal bestseller.
The novel has been a mainstay of the N.Y. Times’ bestseller list for 166 weeks and has sold over 12 million copies.
Part murder mystery, character study and a genuflection to the wonders of the natural world, it’s illuminated by its spunky heroine, Kya Clarke (Daisy Edgar-Jones).
Kya’s a survivor. First her mother and then her siblings fled their physically abusive father, who will abandon a teenage Kya as well.
Alone, growing up in her remote swamp home, she becomes a self-taught naturalist and supports herself by selling mussels to the local grocer. The town residents dismiss her as weird, prevent her from attending school and call her “marsh girl.” When a local man, a former high school football hero, is found dead in the marsh, Kya’s put on trial, charged with his murder.
For the London-born Edgar-Jones, 24, Kya is the latest coup in a career that began when she was 17. Her first big break was the 2020 Hulu miniseries of another acclaimed novel, Sally Rooney’s “Normal People,” an incisive look at the ups and downs of an affair between two Trinity College students in Dublin.
“Crawdads,” Edgar-Jones knows, has a universal appeal. “Although the circumstance Kya finds herself in is quite unique, as a character she is a very universal one and a very relatable one,” she said in a phone interview last weekend. “There’s a little bit of Kya in all of us.
“For me, when it came to playing her, obviously there was a slight added pressure knowing that so many people had fallen in love with her in that world.
“But also it felt like an honor to be a part of something that people already loved so much and being the one that gets the chance to sort of have a go at bringing it to life really.”
If “Crawdads” doesn’t retreat from depicting the horrors of abuse, its focus is positive.
“Her resilience is something that’s so admirable but also it’s a very human quality,” she said.
“When I was reading the book, that was during the pandemic when we were all experiencing worldwide hardship. The ability to bounce back and keep going is a very admirable quality.
“The fact that Kya does experience so much hardship and despite that she’s able to sort of survive in this hostile environment and also ultimately thrive — it’s such an inspirational aspect about her as a character. One that’s incredibly human as well.”