The sweeping feeling of life in the wetlands and the evocations of birds and seasonal rhythms transported me to another place entirely, which I loved. I enjoyed reading this story for its swamp life, for its easy, engaging storytelling style, and for its lead character Kya Clark, whose loneliness, frustrations, and deep love of nature I can relate to. Kya’s emotional roller-coaster of life experiences swung me up, down and around with her, and I can easily imagine this story of courage and survival being made into a movie both lyrical and dramatic, with the atmospherics of fertile, beautiful, frightening life in the North Carolina wetlands reflecting varied themes of betrayal, loss, abandonment, female survival, poverty, love, the power of true friendships, and the need for meaning and connection in life.
Having said all that, it's far from perfect. What others have written about the absurdity/shallowness of some plot elements is true....for instance, the story ignores any realistic insight on how a little girl survives by herself in a swamp, dealing with illness, hunting for food, etc... It is more of a woman's fairy-tale marsh romance-cum-mystery thriller. I found the courtroom scenes especially contrived and melodramatic (in my mind as I read it, I kept thinking of the court scene in To Kill A Mockingbird for some reason). And heading to the end of the story, some elements I could predict. But what the hell, I still liked the tale for how it dealt with worthless men and for its touches of lyrical writing on the marshes (although if you've ever read the Dave Robicheaux crime thriller series by James Lee Burke, you'll quickly see that Burke's evocations of southern marsh landscapes, seasons and "zen" moments are richer, more nuanced and more emotionally moving -- but then, Burke is a much more experienced writer with many more books under his belt).