“The Marsh King’s Daughter’’ is a gripping story about a girl who slowly realizes that the father she worships is a monster.
Growing up, Helena is a shadow to her Native American father, who trains her how to live off the land of their marsh home. She learns how to track, hunt and fish, while avoiding her withdrawn mother’s boring duties of cooking and cleaning. She is a fierce child whose father tries to shape her into a version of himself. Her adoration of her father helps her overlook the times he is physically abusive when Helena and her mother do not do exactly what he wants.
Helena eventually learns the truth about her parents: Her father is a murderer who kidnapped her mother as a teenager. When Helena is 12, she helps her mother escape their marsh prison and police eventually capture and arrest her father. Helena endures many difficult years of adjustment, while trying to create a new identity and life. When she hears a morning news report that her sociopathic father has killed two prison guards and escaped, her happy life is suddenly threatened. She knows he is coming for her, and only she can stop him.
Karen Dionne deftly alternates the book’s chapters from Helena recalling her life growing up on the isolated marsh to her plans of capturing her father. Helena is a fierce, compelling character who struggles coming to terms with her love-hate relationship with her father. The story is riveting and atmospheric, with the wild marsh in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula providing an absorbing background. Highly recommended.