What Kind of World? A Brief Review of Ride, Sally, Ride & Where the Crawdads Sing

Dec 2, 2020 | Article | 6 comments

*SPOILERS AHEAD*

 

A few times this year I spent an entire weekend in bed devouring a novel. Only twice was it mildly worth it. The first was when I read Ride, Sally, Ride by Douglas Wilson and the second was when I read Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. Both gave me plenty to think about, but only one gave me anything praiseworthy to think about. Oddly enough, it was the one with the sex robot.

Before anyone think I’ve gone off the deep-end, let me be clear: Ride, Sally, Ride was not really about a sex robot insomuch as it was about a young man having the mind to do what his elders should have known to do already, namely, to refuse to tolerate sex robots in the first place. We meet the young man, Ace, around the same time as his new neighbor comes over and introduces himself. He drags along his sex robot, Sally, and refers to the robot as his wife. Ace’s father, a Christian and an elder in a local congregation, clearly playing the part of so many pastors today, goes along with the “wife” thing and encourages his son to play along as well. Ace righteously won’t tolerate it, and throws Sally in a dumpster as soon as the opportunity arises. He is then put on trial for murder, given that his neighbor believes Sally the Robot to be his actual wife and woke lawmakers have taken over the country. My main complaint with the novel is that I just watched a video of a man marrying his sex doll, and Sally was supposed to be set in the future. The novel felt less dystopian than it did an uncomfortable and salient warning against what is currently germinating.

We have divorced sex from reproduction, sex from biblical ethics, sex from anything meaningful outside of our current biological fizzing feelings, and our evangelical overlords main concern seems to be that we make sure none of the fizzing feelings get too fizzled. If you could stack all the Christian blogs written on tone next to all the Christian blogs containing a meaningful sexual ethic, you could only see the former from outer space. Thankfully, that whole “tone” problem has been handled.

This brings me to the second novel I zipped through this year, Where the Crawdads Sing. I did not expect to enjoy this novel because it doesn’t appear to have much in common with the books I usually enjoy. Nonetheless, I was repeatedly told that it was a fun read by trusted friends, so I grabbed a copy. The second the dead body was found, I was hooked. Whodunnit? is a question I need answered. By the time our main character, Kya, was orphaned in the marsh, I felt like a mama bear that had to see her through to the end.

At several points, I considered not finishing the book. There were two (I could be wrong, minimally two, but possibly three) somewhat graphic sexual encounters described. If they had gone any further, my conscience would not have allowed me to continue. I was surprised. The book all the church ladies were reading? The book Karen Swallow Prior and Beth Moore had a live-tweeted discussion about with thousands of followers? And there’s this much undressing? An older man taking advantage of a younger girl? Seriously?

Strangely, the strength of Crawdads is that it believes (and acted consistently with this belief) that nature is self-creating, and creation is all there is. The more its main character, Kya, became as ruthless as the animals and rushing waters around her, the more she became. In the end, Kya, the girl we had been rooting for, becomes like the firefly Owens carefully described for us throughout the book: she killed her sexual partner. And we are left to feel that, because ultimately she did what any old insect would do, this was okay. If nature is self-creating, it should be worshipped. And whatever is worthy of worship is worthy of imitating. Kya became one with nature and fulfilled her true self not only by getting away with murder, but by dying alone in the land she loved so much.

Frankly, I was devastated. I spent 366 pages with Kya. Hoping for Kya. Feeling for Kya. And I left her dead in the marsh, uglier than I thought she could be, and sad for all that she could have been but chose not to. I closed the book genuinely stunned that I hadn’t seen it coming and sincerely bothered that Kya was not only abandoned and abused by the cast of characters around her, but that her author continually stripped her of her integrity and whittled her down to nothing but biology without blushing.

Not only did the inappropriate sexual content surprise me, what has really taken me aback in the reading of these two novels is the upside-down response from the evangelical world (not that Sally didn’t adequately prophesy such). I only know of these two books because of Christian Twitter. If you went by evangelical lady tweets alone, you’d think Sally was a perverted romp that only a jailbird could enjoy and Crawdads should be Required Reading. And yet, it was Crawdads that beautified animal sexual ethics for humans. It looked down its nose upon marriage, courage, and honesty. It was Sally that repudiated perversion and championed valor. I suppose, when tone is everything, this makes sense. For a Christian, it should make no sense.

I closed Crawdads with a pit in my stomach. I left the world of Sally full of hope. I suppose I am not much of a prophet, because I didn’t see this coming, either. Sally ends in marriage and life. You see potty-mouthed sinners turned to repentant saints. You see marriage restored. Villains vanquished. Elders finding backbones. Leaders leading. Hope firmly fixed on the horizon. Crawdads left our heroine floating dead and alone in a marsh.

All of us should consider what kind of world we paint with our words. Owens hid a hideous, hopeless world under beautiful and moving prose. Wilson told us about the kind of courage and hope we all need to muster in hideous times. Choose who to imitate wisely.

*SPOILERS AHEAD*

 

A few times this year I spent an entire weekend in bed devouring a novel. Only twice was it mildly worth it. The first was when I read Ride, Sally, Ride by Douglas Wilson and the second was when I read Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. Both gave me plenty to think about, but only one gave me anything praiseworthy to think about. Oddly enough, it was the one with the sex robot.

Before anyone think I’ve gone off the deep-end, let me be clear: Ride, Sally, Ride was not really about a sex robot insomuch as it was about a young man having the mind to do what his elders should have known to do already, namely, to refuse to tolerate sex robots in the first place. We meet the young man, Ace, around the same time as his new neighbor comes over and introduces himself. He drags along his sex robot, Sally, and refers to the robot as his wife. Ace’s father, a Christian and an elder in a local congregation, clearly playing the part of so many pastors today, goes along with the “wife” thing and encourages his son to play along as well. Ace righteously won’t tolerate it, and throws Sally in a dumpster as soon as the opportunity arises. He is then put on trial for murder, given that his neighbor believes Sally the Robot to be his actual wife and woke lawmakers have taken over the country. My main complaint with the novel is that I just watched a video of a man marrying his sex doll, and Sally was supposed to be set in the future. The novel felt less dystopian than it did an uncomfortable and salient warning against what is currently germinating.

We have divorced sex from reproduction, sex from biblical ethics, sex from anything meaningful outside of our current biological fizzing feelings, and our evangelical overlords main concern seems to be that we make sure none of the fizzing feelings get too fizzled. If you could stack all the Christian blogs written on tone next to all the Christian blogs containing a meaningful sexual ethic, you could only see the former from outer space. Thankfully, that whole “tone” problem has been handled.

This brings me to the second novel I zipped through this year, Where the Crawdads Sing. I did not expect to enjoy this novel because it doesn’t appear to have much in common with the books I usually enjoy. Nonetheless, I was repeatedly told that it was a fun read by trusted friends, so I grabbed a copy. The second the dead body was found, I was hooked. Whodunnit? is a question I need answered. By the time our main character, Kya, was orphaned in the marsh, I felt like a mama bear that had to see her through to the end.

At several points, I considered not finishing the book. There were two (I could be wrong, minimally two, but possibly three) somewhat graphic sexual encounters described. If they had gone any further, my conscience would not have allowed me to continue. I was surprised. The book all the church ladies were reading? The book Karen Swallow Prior and Beth Moore had a live-tweeted discussion about with thousands of followers? And there’s this much undressing? An older man taking advantage of a younger girl? Seriously?

Strangely, the strength of Crawdads is that it believes (and acted consistently with this belief) that nature is self-creating, and creation is all there is. The more its main character, Kya, became as ruthless as the animals and rushing waters around her, the more she became. In the end, Kya, the girl we had been rooting for, becomes like the firefly Owens carefully described for us throughout the book: she killed her sexual partner. And we are left to feel that, because ultimately she did what any old insect would do, this was okay. If nature is self-creating, it should be worshipped. And whatever is worthy of worship is worthy of imitating. Kya became one with nature and fulfilled her true self not only by getting away with murder, but by dying alone in the land she loved so much.

Frankly, I was devastated. I spent 366 pages with Kya. Hoping for Kya. Feeling for Kya. And I left her dead in the marsh, uglier than I thought she could be, and sad for all that she could have been but chose not to. I closed the book genuinely stunned that I hadn’t seen it coming and sincerely bothered that Kya was not only abandoned and abused by the cast of characters around her, but that her author continually stripped her of her integrity and whittled her down to nothing but biology without blushing.

Not only did the inappropriate sexual content surprise me, what has really taken me aback in the reading of these two novels is the upside-down response from the evangelical world (not that Sally didn’t adequately prophesy such). I only know of these two books because of Christian Twitter. If you went by evangelical lady tweets alone, you’d think Sally was a perverted romp that only a jailbird could enjoy and Crawdads should be Required Reading. And yet, it was Crawdads that beautified animal sexual ethics for humans. It looked down its nose upon marriage, courage, and honesty. It was Sally that repudiated perversion and championed valor. I suppose, when tone is everything, this makes sense. For a Christian, it should make no sense.

I closed Crawdads with a pit in my stomach. I left the world of Sally full of hope. I suppose I am not much of a prophet, because I didn’t see this coming, either. Sally ends in marriage and life. You see potty-mouthed sinners turned to repentant saints. You see marriage restored. Villains vanquished. Elders finding backbones. Leaders leading. Hope firmly fixed on the horizon. Crawdads left our heroine floating dead and alone in a marsh.

All of us should consider what kind of world we paint with our words. Owens hid a hideous, hopeless world under beautiful and moving prose. Wilson told us about the kind of courage and hope we all need to muster in hideous times. Choose who to imitate wisely.

SUMMER JAEGER
Summer Jaeger is the wife to one excellent man and a homeschooling mother of four. When she is not blogging or podcasting, she is perfecting the art of the slow-cooked meal and wishing she was taking long-ish walks on the beach.
@SummrWrites Facebook sheologiansblog@gmail.com

6 Comments

  1. Sheila

    I, too, had seen “Crawdads” recommended by Christian women and by my local library as being a “must read.” I was a part of a waiting list for weeks after requesting it from the library. I was so disappointed and disgusted. Oddly though, when others were looking for a new book recommendation, I almost suggested it simply because it was popular. Ew. I know better. Thanks for reviews!

    Reply
  2. Chadd

    Excellent review, especially enjoyed the last 2 paragraphs.

    Reply
  3. Sarah Popovich

    Great review! I hadn’t heard of Sally but may have to check it out. I love fiction recommendations and am usually left wanting (a whole lot more) from Christian fiction. It often lacks the punch I’m after because the stories aren’t willing to go to the dark places where real life lives.

    Reply
  4. Martins

    Thanks for breaking this down, learnt alot. Was already looking forward to the crawdads book.

    Reply
  5. Leslie Taylor

    I also really enjoyed Ride Sally Ride. There were many laugh out loud parts and I kept reading quotes to whoever was sitting near me. I have not read Crawdads but had heard of it and was considering it so thanks for the heads up. I will definitely skip it!

    Reply
  6. Nancy

    Thank you for your review. I wish I had seen this before I listened to the book! It had been on my wish list for some time … I should have looked for more recent reviews. I have been mulling it over the last couple days and so much of what you say is what I have been thinking. (Mamma Bear) I was so disappointed with how it all went down. I’m not a water person, but I enjoy birds and the outdoors and even collecting things, so much of the story was captivating and yet much was not coming through with values that I hoped would be there.
    Lesson learned. Trouble is I don’t know where to find recommendations for the occasional fiction that meets all the criteria.

    Reply

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