Is Where the Crawdads Sing based on a true story?

Lucy-Jo Finnighan
where the crawdads sing
Sony Pictures

The upcoming film Where the Crawdads Sing is based on a best-selling book of the same name, but is that book based on true events?

The Where the Crawdads Sing film, directed by Olivia Newman and starring Daisy-Edgar Jones, has recently been released to mixed reviews, but the book on which it is based is still incredibly popular, having been a New York Times Best Seller.

However, there is one question that both viewers of the film and readers of the book have been raising, which is this: Is the tale based on a true story?

While the answer to this question isn’t super straightforward, the background of the story and its author Delia Owens certainly is an intriguing tale of its own.

Is Where the Crawdads Sing based on a true story?

The short answer: No, Where the Crawdads Sing isn’t a historical re-enactment of any true story.

The long answer: Well, it’s complicated.

The critically acclaimed book, which was published in 2018, is about a young woman, Kya Clark, who grows up isolated in the South Carolina Marsh, and is later considered to be a main suspect when a popular member of the nearby town, Chase Andrews, is murdered.

While author Owens did not write Kay as a self-insert type character necessarily, Owen’s past may very well have influenced her decision to write such a plot.

See, Owens was also connected to a real-life murder back in 1995, alongside her husband Mark Owens. While they were never accused of committing the crime, the couple was wanted for questioning.

The murder – which is still unsolved to this day – was of an alleged African poacher in Zambia, who was shot dead while Owens and her family – who are American conservationists – were visiting Zambia on an elephant conservation trip.

Zambia’s director of public prosecutions, Lillian Shawa-Siyuni, has stated to The Atlantic that despite it being 27 years later, “There is no statute of limitations on murder in Zambia. They are all wanted for questioning in this case, including Delia Owens.” However, it has been made clear that the Owens family are just wanted for questioning, nothing more.

Delia Owens denies that she knows “anything” about the real-life murder case

Delia has denied any involvement in this murder case and told The Atlantic, “We don’t know anything about it. And when discussing her husband’s involvement, she stated that, “The only thing Mark ever did was throw firecrackers out of his plane, but just to scare poachers, not to hurt anyone.

“We don’t even know where that event took place. It was horrible, a person being shot like that.”

But despite her and her family’s lawyers denying any wrong-doing, this story became a rather topical event. The situation was reported in a 1996 documentary titled Deadly Game: The Mark and Delia Owens Story. The case was even the subject of an 18,000-word feature that was published in the New Yorker, which can be read here.

Where the Crawdads Sing is currently in cinemas.