King’s Daughter by Karen
Dionne delves into what life is like for a child of a long-term
kidnap victim. Anyone that has wondered about Amanda Berry
or Jaycee Dugard should read this story. These women were
kidnapped, raped, and bore a child while being interned in
a prison of hell. But what happens to the child conceived
under these conditions?
She wanted to convey to readers, “no one is all evil
and all good. They should experience a range of emotions from
sympathy to hate. I hope people will understand that once
a decision is made in your life you need to take responsibility.
Helena never told her husband of her past life and almost
lost him. Her mother would have never been captured if she
refused to go up to the kidnapper and ran home instead.”
The novel opens with the line, “But I won’t tell
you my mother’s name. Because this isn’t her story.
It’s mine.” And that is how readers meet Helena,
the child imprisoned with her mother, even if she did not
see it in this manner. The author does a marvelous job allowing
Helena to come to terms with reality, progressing from idolizing
and imitating her father to realizing he is a cruel narcissist
and a control freak. A sense of eeriness is added as she tells
her story, going back and forth between her captive life and
her current one. The psychology, violence, and wilderness
setting all are intertwined.
This is the ultimate love/hate story between a child and her
parents. By beginning each chapter with a section of the fairy
tale, The Marsh King's Daughter by Hans Christian Anderson,
the author formulates a connection between Helena's life and
this tale. She had little use for her mother while growing
up; yet, as she grew into adulthood had faint memories of
this tale her mother had told her. After reaching adolescence
she realized that the violence and cruelty of her father were
not normal and that her mother attempted to insulate and protect
It became obvious that her feelings toward
her parents were very complicated. Born two years into her
mother's captivity, while growing up, her father, Jacob Holbrook,
taught her how to fish, hunt, and survive in the wilderness
without electricity and heat. The Upper Peninsula of Michigan
sets the tone for the novel. Living in a cabin in this remote
area the author provides graphic details including how to
skin and hunt a bear, deer, and beavers. Her father used his
background of part Native American, part Finn, to teach her
skills to be self-sufficient, making her his "little
Dionne noted, "I lived on the peninsula
in Michigan a long time ago, although I never hunted and fished.
I researched on You-Tube and Googled it. My husband and I
homesteaded in the wilderness when my oldest daughter was
six weeks old during the 1970s. We lived in a tent and carried
water from the stream. The scene of Helena trudging across
the frozen Marsh in winter is something I did many times.
When I write about what it is like to wash diapers by hand
in a bucket I have been there/done that. I knew exactly what
it is like and it is not fun. Eventually, we left the wilderness
for practical considerations, our daughter going to school
and my husband's job."
She knows nothing of the outside world except
through her fifty-year-old National Geographic magazines until
at the age of eleven she sees some children up at the falls.
Wanting to connect with people she creates these imaginary
friends, Cousteau and Calypso, who act as her sub-conscious.
With their help, she realizes that her father is a savage.
She must assist her mother escaping the abuse and put her
dad in jail.
Years later, she finds out her father has
escaped leading to her hidden identity, as the Marsh King’s
Daughter, becoming public. Helena knows only she has the skills
to track and find the survivalist, Jacob, who has entered
the Marsh Lands again. While hunting him, memories come to
the surface and they are not all bad. The Marsh King is not
purely a figure of evil but a father who loves and is intimately
connected with his daughter. Helena’s conflicting emotions
about her father and her own identity make this a powerful
Because the plot is so realistic readers will have to remind
themselves this is a work of fiction. Interestingly, the cover
only has the title on the edge and not on the actual front
of the book. The added feature of having Dionne weave the
connection between Helena and the Hans Christian Anderson
fairy tale made the story even more fascinating and dark.