The Marsh King’s Daughter by Karen Dionne
Genres: Fiction, Thriller
Maturity Level: 4-
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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.
Well this was a cool book! As lame as that sounds, I genuinely mean that it was cool. I found the concept really intriguing, the story-telling devices gripping, and the writing fast-paced. The Marsh King’s Daughter really captured my attention and made me think, in addition to be entertaining as heck.
What really separated The Marsh King’s Daughter from other books, for me, was a technique that maybe isn’t the most unique in the world, but was used very effectively. By alternating between flashbacks of her past and the exciting narrative in the present, a tried and true story-telling method, Dionne kept me hooked. The present was fast paced and page turning, while the flashbacks were more slower paced and thought provoking. The result was a mix that was, I thought, truly distinctive. It kept me reading at a quick, if not page turning pace, eager to find out what would happen next. But it also kept me thinking. And I LOVE books that make me think.
I’ve never really given much thought to what it might be like to be abducted. Sure, we all saw Taken, and sex slavery seems like a lot less of a mystery now, but that’s not really what I mean. We hear these stories in the media, stories of girls like Jaycee Dugard, and we’re just drawn in. What was it like to be her? Yet despite our media obsession, I never really felt like I had a clear idea. Now I do. These women, girls, they don’t understand what is happening to them, they are too young when they’re taken. And it stumps their development in ways that we could never understand.
I was just fascinated by the idea that a kidnapped girl might have a child and raise her. Helena was a heroine like I’ve never read before. Even fifteen years after joining the rest of the world, normal social interactions leave her feeling confused. She loves her father and hates him at the same time. She is torn between the marsh she loves and the normal life she wants for her family. She looks back on her childhood with a bewildering mixture of fondness, confusion, fear, and hate. And it is this bizarre combination of emotions that lead her to attempt to track her father down herself.
I was also very intrigued by Michigan’s Upper Peninsula as a setting. I’ve been to Michigan to visit family nearly every summer of my life, but never set foot on the UP. My family up north concedes that people from the UP are strange folk, but that they would say the same of the “southerners”. It’s a completely different culture, one I was excited to learn more about.
I’m not usually one for thrillers, honestly. I don’t like when they get violent, and I don’t like to be scared or freaked out. This one was pretty mild. There was a little bit of gruesomeness toward the end, which is where the 4-minus maturity rating came in. I didn’t want to say 3, because ten year old me would have been pretty freaked, but a tough country kid might not mind, and as an adult I sure didn’t. But I don’t know if I would even really call The Marsh King’s Daughter a thriller. It just didn’t have that edge-of-your seat tone that I would expect in the genre. It was mellowed out by the flashbacks.
Overall, and interesting and fun book. However, thriller purists may not be thrilled, but Jodi Picoult lovers might enjoy it as a change of pace that’s not too far off.