The Ending of Where the Crawdads Sing: What Happened?

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What happens in the ending of Where the Crawdads Sing? Does Kya really get away with murder?

The ending of Where the Crawdads sing concludes the story of Kya, who passes away at the age of 64 after sharing a life with Tate on the Marsh. In the ending of Where the Crawdads Sing, Tate discovers two important secrets about Kya.

Keep reading to have the Where the Crawdads Sing ending explained.

The Ending of Where the Crawdads Sing: The Trial

How does Where the Crawdads Sing end? First, the jury comes to a verdict about the murder case.

Kya’s supporters, including Scupper, who’d shown up in court a few days earlier to support his son, were impatient for the verdict. Tom told them he couldn’t predict how long the jury would deliberate or what their verdict would be but reminded them that even with a guilty verdict, the fight wasn’t over. 

The jury asked for documents twice. The first was the bus drivers’ transcripts. The second was the coroner’s transcript. The hours dragged, and as her support team sat unsettled, so did Kya in her cell. She had lived a life of loneliness, but waiting for the verdict created a sensation like she’d never known. Thinking of never seeing her beautiful marsh again made her feel more alone than before. 

At four o’clock the same day, the jury had a decision. Tom delivered the news with a solemn expression. A verdict this fast didn’t bode well for Kya. The townspeople clustered back into the courtroom, which was at capacity within ten minutes. 

Judge Sims asked Kya to rise. Jumpin’ and Mabel clasped hands. Tate leaned as far as he could toward Kya’s back. The energy in the room had shifted from before. The salivating eagerness of community to condemn Kya was gone. Now, most people stared at the floor. Tom’s words had shown them their folly. 

When the verdict of not guilty echoed through the breathless courtroom, everyone had different reactions. Kya’s supporters gasped with relief, cried, and hugged. Other’s comforted a sobbing Patty Love. Some grew angry, demanding an explanation and pointing the finger at the ineptitude of Sheriff Jackson. Others showed a similar disappointment, but inside, they were overjoyed. These few included Mrs. Singletary, Mrs. Culpepper, and Pansy Price. Soon, the roar died down, and people left the courthouse to return to their regular lives. This is an important part of the ending of Where the Crawdads Sing, since it lets Kya go free and begin to live her life again.

Life Renewed

In the ending of Where the Crawdads Sing, Kya also reconnects with her brother Jodie, though they don’t see eye to eye on her future. This is part of how the Where the Crawdads Sing ending is explained.

Jodie drove Kya home from the jail. She was anxious to see her shack and the environment that had saved her all those years. She rushed into the shack and touched every possession. Jodie had a bag of crumbs waiting for her, and she ran to the beach, tossing crumbs to her seabirds and crying with joy. 

When Kya got back to the shack, she was surprised to find Jodie still in it, so used to being alone. Jodie asked Kya to sit and have tea with him. He wanted to stay and help her readjust for a few days, and he didn’t want what had happened to harden her even more against people. Jodie saw the verdict as a new beginning and thought people would accept her now. 

Kya didn’t want to hear anything Jodie had to say. She wanted to be alone, as she’d always been. Kya left the shack and disappeared into the forest, but Jodie couldn’t bring himself to leave. He made dinner, hoping to try again when Kya returned, but she never did. 

Kya waited for Jodie to leave before she returned home. She tried to paint, but the images were dark and angry. Kya didn’t know what to do with all the furious emotions she felt, and she was suddenly remorseful for the way she’d treated Jodie. She sank to the floor and cried. Later, Kya found a pelican feather on the beach. It reminded her of the one Tate had given her. She recited a poem by Amanda Hamilton about trying to break free but being haunted by her lover’s eyes

Growing Old Together

Barkley Cove was not spared from gentrification over the years. Jumpin’s wharf became an upscale marina, and the little shops on Main Street became boutiques. Grits became polenta, and every establishment was desegregated. Tate worked at the lab for the rest of his career, and Kya published seven more books, all of which won awards. She was given an honorary doctoral degree from UNC but never accepted invitations to speak. 

But how does Where the Crawdads Sing end for Kya and Tate? Kya and Tate were inseparable. They’d tried to conceive a child, but it never happened. As her relationship grew on solid ground, so did Kya’s understanding of connection. She saw that human love was more than just mating rituals, but she didn’t regret growing up in a world dictated by the laws of nature. She was connected to the land in a way no one else could understand. The land had raised her, and it was as much a fabric of her life as anything humans could provide

One afternoon, when Kya was sixty-four, she didn’t return from exploring in her boat. Tate went to search for her and found her lying back in the boat, seeming to be sleeping. When he got closer, fear gripped his heart. He shouted her name, but she didn’t move. Tate pulled her up by the shoulders, her long hair, now stark white, flowed behind her. He screamed his anguish to the sky and held her, rocking back and forth. 

Tate buried Kya below an oak tree near the water. All the people who had once condemned her lined up to pay their respects. They had grown to marvel at the way she had survived and the life she was able to make for herself with everything that had happened. On her tombstone, Tate chose an epitaph he felt represented Kya’s life well. She had become a legend in their community, and her nickname was now distinguished. The tombstone read: “Catherine Danielle Clark, ‘Kya’, The Marsh Girl, 1945–2009.” 

The Ending of Where the Crawdads Sing: A Secret Revealed

In the ending of Where the Crawdads Sing, Tate is devastated. After all the mourners had left, Tate walked to Kya’s studio and labeled the samples she hadn’t gotten to yet. Her looked at her collection, fifty years in the making, and knew he would keep it just as she’d left it. She’d wanted it donated to Tate’s lab, but he wasn’t ready to let go yet.

Tate went back to the cabin and started preparing food for the birds. He stirred a pot of mush absentmindedly, thinking of Kya. Then, he saw something that brought him back. Next to the kitchen stove lay the wood pile Kya had always kept stacked high, even in the warm months. At the edge, he noticed the new tiles they’d installed didn’t reach underneath the pile. 

Tate leaned down and moved the wood aside until he saw a cutout in the floorboards. He lifted the boards and revealed a hidden compartment encompassing a dusty cardboard box. Inside the box were several manilla envelopes, all labeled “A.H.” and a smaller box. The poems of Amanda Hamilton lay inside each envelope written in Kya’s hand. Tate couldn’t believe it. His wife was the poet and had secretly reached out to the world, sharing her most private feelings, and no one had ever known. 

There was another envelope that housed only one poem called “The Firefly.” The words described something unmistakable. Kya’s poem was about watching a lover fall into another world, taking his life and their love with them. Tate gasped. He made sure no one was outside before he reached for the smaller box. He didn’t need to open it to know it held Chase’s shell necklace. 

Tate sat at the table that night going over what must have happened the morning of October 30. He saw her disguised on the buses, riding the riptide and avoiding the moon based on her keen knowledge, luring Chase toward her, her hands on his chest as she moved him closer to the open grate. She knew how to cover her tracks and vanish without a trace. 

Tate made a fire and burned the poems and piece of rawhide the shell had hung from. He replaced the boards and wood. He took the shell to the beach and placed it on the sand, where it became just another shell among so many others. The tide came in and washed the shells back to sea, taking Kya’s secret with them, showing the surprising ending of Where the Crawdads Sing.

So how does Where the Crawdads Sing end? Is the Where The Crawdads Sing ending explained? Not only do the reader (and Tate) discover the truth about Chase’s murder, but they also discover Kya’s deepest secret. The ending of Where the Crawdads Sing is one that will leave readers satisfied.

The Ending of Where the Crawdads Sing: What Happened?

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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best summary of Delia Owens's "Where the Crawdads Sing" at Shortform.

Here's what you'll find in our full Where the Crawdads Sing summary:

  • How Kya Clark's abandonment as a child affected her through her entire life
  • How Kya discovered love despite steep obstacles
  • The murder trial that embroiled Kya's town, and the ultimate truth behind the murder

Carrie Cabral

Carrie has been reading and writing for as long as she can remember, and has always been open to reading anything put in front of her. She wrote her first short story at the age of six, about a lost dog who meets animal friends on his journey home. Surprisingly, it was never picked up by any major publishers, but did spark her passion for books. Carrie worked in book publishing for several years before getting an MFA in Creative Writing. She especially loves literary fiction, historical fiction, and social, cultural, and historical nonfiction that gets into the weeds of daily life.

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