The Marsh King’s Daughter by Karen Dionne
Expected publication: June 13, 2017
G.P. Putnam’s Sons
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I came across this book a few months ago. I knew it wasn’t going to be released until June but I couldn’t wait to read it. Once I started reading I didn’t want to stop.
The narrator tells us that her mother was famous for things no one would never want to be famous for. She says we may recognize her mother’s name, but we probably haven’t thought about her for years….but she is sure we would remember she had a daughter and we would wonder what happened to her.
“But I won’t tell you my mother’s name. Because this isn’t her story. It’s mine”
Helena was twelve and her mother was twenty-eight when they were recovered from their captor. Helena had no idea they were captives. She never went to school, never rode a bicycle, never knew electricity or running water and only ever spoke with two people in twelve years. Her mother and father.
We learn that after leaving the marsh, Helena really struggled with social skills. After years of living only with her mother and father, Helena had to learn how to fit in and how to act in public and social situations.
“Shake hands when you meet someone. Don’t pick your nose. Go to the back of the line. Wait your turn. Don’t burp or pass gas in the presence of others”
After all these years, Helena seems to finally have the life she deserves. The bad days are behind her. Happily married with two daughters and her thriving business.
Unfortunately, the past isn’t as buried as deep she thought…..
The story begins in the present. Helena Pelletier is dropping off orders of her homemade jam. Tourists and locals love her jam and sales are good. Helena decides to take her three-year old daughter, Mari to the beach after deliveries are done. She loses track of time and needs to hurry to meet her older daughter’s bus. She turns on the radio in hopes that the music will help with her toddlers current meltdown. As she flips through the radio stations she hears the words escaped….prisoner ….armed and dangerous. It repeats. A dangerous man has escaped from prison, killing two guards in the process. They believe he’s headed for the wild life refuge close to her home. But when she hears the name of the prisoner her heart nearly stops.
Jacob Hollbrook aka “The Marsh King” was serving a life sentence for child abduction and other crimes. The reason Helena is so horrified is that SHE is the one who put him in prison.
Jacob Hollbrook…..is her father.
She worries the police won’t find him. He’s in his element in the woods. She may have felt safe from him when he was behind bars. But now everything has changed. She hoped she would be able to tell her husband, Stephen all of the things she meant to tell him all of these years. However, before she has the chance, the police arrive to question her. They want to know if she knows where her father is. Stephen is in shock and also terrified for his family. He decides they should go to his parents until her father is captured. Helena tells him she must stay behind to help the police. Which is only partially true.
What she doesn’t tell her husband is that she is going to go after her father. She’s the only one who will be able to find him…using the skills her taught her himself.
She is The Marsh King’s daughter and he taught her well.
The book alternates between the past and the present. Told from Helena’s perspective, we learn a lot about her childhood. Her relationship with her father at the centre of it all. I can’t imagine the internal struggle and conflicting emotions she would have, growing up the way she did. Twelve years is a long time and the bond has been created whether we like it or not. It would not be as easy as we think to turn off those feelings.
“part of me that will forever be the little pigtailed girl who idolized her father”
The Marsh King’s Daughter fairy tale by Hans Christian Anderson, is interspersed between chapters, which added to the story.
I’ve often wondered about women like Elisabeth Fritzl, Amanda Berry, and Jaycee Dugard and so many other women who have escaped or been rescued after being held captive for years. I’ve occasionally wondered about the children as well but this book really made it hit home for me. Of course it’s difficult for the women who were help captive, but the children who were conceived and born in similar conditions? How would they acclimate to their new world?…new lives?
The characters, setting, and the plot are very well-developed. Karen Dionne did an amazing job bringing her characters to life. Helena is damaged but also very brave and strong. I’m not a hunter so I did have a hard time reading some of the aspects of the hunting, killing and cleaning of the animals. However, I don’t feel it was done in a way to glorify violence but it’s a part of the story. This is how they lived and survived and it’s amazing the things Helena learned at such a young age.
An amazing read that I really could have read it in one sitting. As I neared the end there’s not much that could have torn me away. Compelling, intense, and unputdownable. This book is one that is going to stay with me for a very long time. I can’t wait to see what Karen Dionne writes next.
Thank you G.P. Putnam’s Sons and Karen Dionne for providing an advanced readers copy of this book for me to read in exchange for my honest review.