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.
Extracts from the Marsh King's Daughter, a fable by Hans Christian Anderson, appear at the beginning of some sections of the story. They appear to be directing the reader to the conclusion that girl in the fable had dual personality, or perhaps that every one of us is capable of ambivalence.
I kept thinking of how things have changed culturally throughout history, that if Helena's father had committed this abduction, the choosing and taking of a wife, two hundred years earlier, in Indian culture this would have been an acceptable way of doing things.
Helena grows up unaware that her father has done anything wrong although she recognises that he has an angry side to his personality, that he is capable of meting out swift and cruel punishments to her and her mother.
Although Helena adores her father, and despises her mother, she eventually escapes and is responsible for his captures and imprisonment. Her narration in the book swaps between her experiences as child and the life she has built for herself since her escape. Now her father has escaped after 15 years of imprisonment and she knows he is looking for her.
My rating: 4.4
About the author
Karen Dionne drew heavily on her experiences during the 1970s in Michigan's Upper Peninsula to write The Marsh King's Daughter, when she and her husband lived in a tent with their six-week-old daughter while they built a tiny cabin. Karen carried water from a stream, made wild apple jelly over a campfire (and defended it against marauding raccoons), sampled wild foods such as cattail heads and milkweed pods, and washed nappies in a bucket (which Karen says is every bit as nasty as it sounds). She enjoys nature photography and lives with her husband in Detroit's northern suburbs.