Outside Looking In

The Books


Three Bags Full book coverThree Bags Full

Author: Leonie Swann

Genre: Fiction; Cozy Mystery; Unusual POV

Publisher: Transworld Publishers Limited, Doubleday Publishing, Randomhouse Inc.

Published: 2005

Number of Pages: 368


No sheep may leave the flock.

Glennkill’s black sheep of a shepherd, George Glenn, is found dead in his meadow with a spade in his chest. Despite his shortcomings (no proper shepherd would wear Norwegian sweaters) George’s sheep had been quite fond of the human. As rumors spread throughout the Irish village, George’s sheep take it upon themselves to solve his murder.



Where the Crawdads Sing book coverWhere the Crawdads Sing

Author: Delia Owens

Genre: Bildungsroman; Mystery; Historical Fiction; Coming-of-Age Fiction; Science/Nature

Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons

Published: August 14, 2019

Number of Pages: 384


1952: Five-year-old Kya’s mother walks out the door with her fake alligator skin boots and her blue train case.

1969: Chase Andrews’ body is found at the base of the old town fire tower.

Part coming-of-age tale, part murder mystery, this book is an intriguing look at how humans interact with the world and the people around them—especially with those who do not fit the norm.

NOTE: I loved the parts about the marsh—especially the feathers. It is clear that the author knows of what she speaks on the ecology side of things.


The Ties That Bind


Warning: Mild spoilers follow for Where the Crawdads Sing. This will mainly be in the form of scenes and plot points that take place at different points in the book. Due to the natures of these stories, it is impossible to point out the connections between them without including these details. Nothing major will be given away.

Both books depict outsiders trying to understand a close-knit community to which they do not belong.

In Three Bags Full, although their only previous knowledge of murder is from a half-finished crime novel remembered by Mopple the Whale, George Glenn’s sheep are determined to uncover the identity of their shepherd’s killer. To do so, they must investigate the human flock. Who is their lead ram? Why is everyone so interested in the caravan? Most important of all, why did George leave the flock?

In Where the Crawdads Sing, Kya by and large raises herself. Abandoned by everyone, she finds ways to earn money and to obtain and prepare food. She feeds the gulls, collects feathers, and paints everything. As rumors of the Marsh Girl fly through the village, Kya becomes much more knowledgeable about the ways of frogs and egrets than about human interactions. As a result, when Kya does turn her attention to the ways of the townspeople, it seems much more like a scientist observing social patterns in a group of closely-bonded mammals than someone commenting on her members of her own community.

Both these books view human interactions through the lens of nature. The effect is to highlight certain aspects of human nature and social norms in a way we aren’t used to thinking about. Sometimes the result is humorous like when George’s Sheep decided that humans have very small souls due to their poor sense of smell. Other times, like when Kya silently observes the long-time friendship of four girls close to her own age, the result is heartbreaking. Either way, these books give readers a chance to view humanity from the eyes of an outsider, if only for a moment.


Up Next

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield  and Not Your Villain by C.B. Lee

merged covers for The Thirteenth Tale and Not Your Villain

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