The Marsh King’s Daughter, by Karen Dionne
Publication Date: June 13, 2017
Source: Penguin’s First-to-Read program
The suspense thriller of the year – The Marsh King’s Daughter will captivate you from the start and chill you to the bone.
‘I was born two years into my mother’s captivity. She was three weeks shy of seventeen. If I had known then what I do now, things would have been a lot different. I wouldn’t have adored my father.’
When notorious child abductor – known as the Marsh King – escapes from a maximum security prison, Helena immediately suspects that she and her two young daughters are in danger.
No one, not even her husband, knows the truth about Helena’s past: they don’t know that she was born into captivity, that she had no contact with the outside world before the age of twelve – or that her father raised her to be a killer.
And they don’t know that the Marsh King can survive and hunt in the wilderness better than anyone… except, perhaps his own daughter.
Packed with gripping suspense and powerful storytelling, The Marsh King’s Daughter is a one-more-page, read-in-one-sitting thriller that you’ll remember forever.
Like I mentioned in my last review post, I am not, generally speaking, a huge reader of thrillers; I requested this book from the Penguins First-to-Read program because the synopsis sounded really interesting.
Over the last decade or so, there have been several highly-publicized incidents in which captive women and their children have been found or escaped from long-time abductors. The children are, in almost every case, the result of a rape perpetrated on the victim by their captor.
I can’t imagine how traumatizing an abduction and prolonged captivity would be for a young woman, and the mental strength required to live through such an ordeal; to add a child into the mix would, I’m sure, complicate the situation exponentially.
This story is told from the point of view of one of these children. Helena, whose mother was abducted when she was fourteen and gave birth to her two years into her captivity. They were held in the marshland of Upper Peninsula Michigan until Helena was about twelve years old.
We meet Helena when she is an adult. She runs her own small business and is happily married with two young daughters of her own.
The story begins when she is out one day delivering her homemade jams and she hears on the radio that her father has escaped from prison.
One of the things that I loved about this novel was that Helena was able to express her memories and experiences with her father and of her captivity without sounding angry or hateful, or even seeming victimized. She is a surprisingly balanced woman considering what she went through. She said that loved her life in the marsh and she loved her father. She didn’t know anything different; she says, “It was a good life, until it wasn’t.”
The book has three intertwining story lines. Helena’s life in the present and what she is doing to deal with her father’s escape; Helena’s narrative of what it was like during her captivity, and beginning each chapter is a piece of the fairytale “The Marsh King’s Daughter” written by Hans Christian Anderson. The three parts are told seamlessly. All three story lines climax together, and are wrapped up nicely.
I don’t think there was any point while I was reading that during the memory narrative I was thinking, “enough already, get back to the story…” like I was with another thriller I just read -Into The Water-.
The story takes us through Helena’s childhood and details how Helena and her family lived in the marsh, things they ate, how they hunted, what the seasons were like, and her respective relationships with her parents.
There are a few incidences as she gets older which she begins to realize that their life isn’t normal. Helena also describes how difficult it was for her and her mother to transition back into society once they had escaped. She talks about the range of feelings she experienced after captivity and how she tried to adjust.
It was interesting to hear the things that she had to learn about that were modern; the words and phrases people use that she never heard before, and simple rituals, like shaking hands in greeting, that she didn’t know existed; things most people don’t even give a second thought to in life.
There is a time in every person’s life when they realize that their parents are actually human beings; that have lived lives beyond that of being a mother or father. This incredible story illustrates what it might be like if you realized one of your parents was a monster.
I would recommend this book to anyone. I will probably recommend it to everyone!
Believe the hype; this will be the blockbuster of the summer.