The Marsh King’s Daughter

marsh daughter

Book Review:  The Marsh King’s Daughter by Karen Dionne

The Marsh King’s Daughter is narrated by Helena, a married mother of two young girls who lives quietly in a rural area in Michigan. Helena, however, has quite the past she hides from everyone, including her family.

Helena was raised in a cabin in the marsh, where her father, Jacob, kept her isolated from the outside world until she was twelve. Jacob, being half American Indian, taught her everything she knows about hunting and living off the land. Unfortunately he also taught her some things no child should need to learn, mostly in the form of physical and emotional abuse.

Helena’s mother was fourteen when Jacob kidnapped her and forced her to live and have a child with him. It would be fifteen years before she and Helena managed to get away and subsequently, Jacob was sent to prison for his crimes.

The book opens with Helena’s peaceful anonymous life turned upside down when Jacob escapes from prison and she suspects he will come looking for her.

Dionne seamlessly links the present day scenes with a series of flashbacks from Helena’s childhood which builds the suspense gradually. Small incidents highlighting Jacob’s misdemeanours grow into his full blown criminal acts and Helena’s growing awareness that her life is not exactly normal.

The book isn’t all Jacob’s creepiness. I appreciated how Dionne went into some detail regarding/understanding Helena’s mother’s apathy towards Helena as well as Helena’s awkward introduction to civilisation.

I can’t fault Dionne’s intricately detailed prose describing Helena’s life on the marsh. Even though I’m a world away from such a setting (guns and knives and bears, oh my!) I imagined everything clearly in my mind.

There is no cliched twist like most other thrillers in the current market feel they have to include. Instead the tension escalates as we read. Until, towards the end, I needed to sit up late into the night to finish.

Highly recommended and I’ll definitely be giving Dionne’s other books a go.

5 out of 5

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