The Marsh King’s Daughter by Karen Dionne

You have no idea how long I’ve waited to read this book. A LONG TIME. It’s been on my radar for a while, but I never got the chance to read it. I made it a part of my TBR list for January, and I’m so glad I got to read it before the month was up! Here is my review:

Synopsis (Goodreads): Helena Pelletier has a loving husband, two beautiful daughters, and a business that fills her days. But she also has a secret: she is the product of an abduction. Her mother was kidnapped as a teenager by her father and kept in a remote cabin in the marshlands of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Helena, born two years after the abduction, loved her home in nature, and despite her father’s sometimes brutal behavior, she loved him, too…until she learned precisely how savage he could be.

More than twenty years later, she has buried her past so soundly that even her husband doesn’t know the truth. But now her father has killed two guards, escaped from prison, and disappeared into the marsh. The police begin a manhunt, but Helena knows they don’t stand a chance. Knows that only one person has the skills to find the survivalist the world calls the Marsh King—because only one person was ever trained by him: his daughter.

Review: There are many reasons why I liked this book. One major reason is that I like unique story lines. The premise here reminded me of Room … but more of what would the child from Room have grown up to be like if the child had had a more violent upbringing when in isolation. And the story does an incredible job of showcasing the way that such a lifestyle would affect a child. Because of this unique situation, the reader gets this amazingly unique protagonist: Helena.

Helena was a character that I liked from the start. She isn’t spunky or funny or emotional. In fact, she is the opposite of those things. She is reclusive, with not too many social graces, and is more comfortable out in the woods than with her family. She is analytical and can come off as cold through the way she perceives things and the way she talks. But I liked that about her. It showed how her childhood had impacted her and made her the person she grew up to be. There are so many books where the main character has supposedly gone through some kind of difficulty in childhood but they don’t show any signs of that as adults; this is not the case here, and I loved it. Helena was damaged and that made her perfect for this story and for me.

The story, while told entirely from her perspective, flits from past to present. Helena recounts the things she learned from her father, and how she and her mother escaped him. Through these memories, the reader gets to see the unique “family” dynamic that Helena was a part of – and also, the way it was sometimes almost normal. It explained the conflict that she felt currently, having to hunt down her father because she knew he was dangerous – but she also loved him for being her parent. I will admit that not much happened in the novel until the end, which may have been a let-down for some people who were expecting a fast-paced high-intensity novel. This is definitely more of a character study – but it is a good one.

Overall, I’m giving this novel a solid 4/5 stars. I liked the premise, and I liked that the character stayed true to her background. I loved how the story flitted back and forth in time, and the ending gave me the satisfaction I was looking for. I would recommend this for anyone looking for a gritty character study.

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