Our Reading Lives

Advice From WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING on Coping With Social Isolation

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Megan Mabee


Megan Mabee has been filling notebooks with her story ideas since she first began reading. She enjoys board gaming, rewatching Miyazaki movies, and building elaborate train sets with her toddler. She savors nap time to squeeze in some reading and writing (and coffee!). Megan currently works in a high school library and hopes to publish a romance novel one day.

While doing the dishes one evening—a time I tend to do my best thinking— I found myself reflecting on advice about coping with social isolation I’d picked up from Where the Crawdads Sing. The story follows the life of Kya Clark, a girl growing up in near isolation in North Carolina coastal marshland during the 1960s. With the push for more social isolation to combat COVID-19, I have to admit feeling a little rain cloud forming above me recently. All at once, though, the startling yet soothing realization washed over me: we are not alone in feeling alone. The #AloneTogether message that Trevor Noah has been promoting finally sunk in. Despite the prospect of spending most of our time homebound during the coming weeks, we face it together with people worldwide. Our loneliness unites us. I felt a similar sensation while reading Where the Crawdads Sing.

“Please don’t talk to me about isolation. No one has to tell me how it changes a person. I am isolation.” —Delia Owens, Where the Crawdads Sing

Where the Crawdads Sing Book CoverAs a single mother, I am not unaccustomed to feelings of social isolation, and the advice I collected like seashells and feathers from Kya’s story helped me process these feelings. Despite Kya existing only fictionally, her words rung true within me, and the relief at feeling understood was palpable. If you decide to give the book a try, hopefully it will help you feel less alone too. If not, maybe the following advice from Where the Crawdads Sing will.

Tip #1: Draw Comfort From Nature

“Sometimes she heard night-sounds she didn’t know or jumped from lightning too close, but whenever she stumbled, it was the land who caught her. Until at last, at some unclaimed moment, the heart pain seeped away like water into sand. Still there, but deep. Kya laid her hand upon the breathing, wet earth, and the marsh became her mother.” —Delia Owens, Where the Crawdads Sing

If you’re starting to unconsciously sing the Happy Birthday song twice to activities other than hand washing, it might be time for a change of scenery. Take a break in nature if you can. If you’re feeling healthy and able to take a walk outside (while still following CDC guidelines), do so. Sunshine, fresh air, and marsh water really can rejuvenate the soul and help you forget the Happy Birthday song for a minute. (And next time you hand wash, try one of these poems instead).

If you’d rather stay at home, spend some time lounging (or singing!) on your deck or balcony. Don’t have an outdoor space? Throw open a window and curl up near the windowsill with the company of the breeze and a good book.

Tip #2: Read, Write, and Find Ways to Express Yourself

“I wasn’t aware that words could hold so much. I didn’t know a sentence could be so full.” —Delia Owens, Where the Crawdads Sing

When Kya learns to read, new worlds open up to her through books. Escaping into my books often helps me put my worries on hold. It may sound corny, but I feel less alone when I’m hanging out between the pages of a book with my favorite fictional characters.

Along with reading, writing helps me feel better as the words I have bottled up flow freely through my fingertips. Kya also finds ways to pierce her isolation through the poetry and books she writes. Journaling, blogging, or writing creatively may help you to feel heard during times of social isolation.

Tip #3: Don’t Forget to Connect, Even if it Has to be Virtual

“Lots of times, love doesn’t work out. Yet even when it fails, it connects you to others, and in the end, that is all you have, the connections.” —Delia Owens, Where the Crawdads Sing

As my days homebound continue, I find myself not only rewatching Frozen 2 more often, but also virtually reaching out to loved ones. This past week, I participated in my first virtual book club and enjoyed a virtual happy hour with friends. My son and I had a little virtual playdate with my friend and her baby. My family celebrated my dad’s birthday with a group FaceTime call including family members from coast to coast.

I’ve found myself connecting more with my son at home as well. He’s my coworker while I work from home and my little buddy throughout the day. In an attempt to integrate some movement into our more sedentary days, I’ve started doing Mommy Toddler Yoga with him. Once the COVID-19 days have passed, I’ll happily keep this new healthy habit. I hope you’re able to take this time to connect with the people and/or pets you’re homebound with as well. As Where the Crawdads Sing tells us, our connections mean everything.

A Final Thought

Whether the gloom of social isolation is weighing on you, or your Disney+ is loading slow with the entire country watching at home, I recommend reading Where the Crawdads Sing. If you don’t own the book, check if your public library offers a digital ebook or audiobook download (I recommend the audiobook!). Scribd now offers a free 30-day subscription to digital books and magazines. Along with online ordering a copy, some local bookstores now offer pick-up services as well. Above all else during these lonely times, I hope you stay healthy, both physically and emotionally. Remember, we’re #AloneTogether.