I had read so much hype about The Marsh King’s Daughter, I was eager to read the advance copy I received from Penguin Group/Putnam & NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. I was expecting a riveting psychological thriller, filled with suspense. What I got was a bit different…
I suppose I have to give it more than three stars, because it was REALLY unsettling. The protagonist, Helena, is a young wife and mother living in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula with her husband and two daughters. She earns money selling homemade jam and jelly, and is making deliveries of her products when she hears on the radio that a prisoner has escaped from the local prison…a man who abducted a girl and and kept her prisoner for years (in “the marsh,” where they were apparently able to live for years without electricity, running water, heat, medical care, etc.). The prisoner, called “The Marsh King,” fathered a child with the girl, and the three of them lived in the marsh for years.
We learn early on that Helena was the baby, that her father is using all his Native American skills to elude the authorities, and that Helena is the only one who can track him and bring him to justice. We know this because it is beaten into our heads relentlessly. And we know that Helena’s childhood was an ugly one, when she tells us “…my childhood came to and end the day my father tried to drown my mother.” She “…was the daughter of a kidnapped girl and her captor. For twelve years, I lived without seeing or speaking another human being other than my parents.”
So yes, I was totally creeped out by the plot…by even more by the character whose horrific deeds form the frame for the plot. I know it was effective because I kept making noises when things happened in the story – noises that made my husband keep asking things like “Are you all right?”
So, we kind of know how the plot is going to unfold, although there are some twists and turns along the way. It is more a tracking story than a mystery, and it is somewhat might mare-inducing…but again, this sort of tells me that Dionne accomplished what she set out to do: write a memorable thriller. Did I LIKE it? No. Creeped me out a bit too much for comfort. Do I recommend it? Yes. It isn’t my kind of thing, but I know many people who will love it. Four stars.