cover image The Marsh King’s Daughter

The Marsh King’s Daughter

Karen Dionne, read by Emily Rankin. Penguin Audio, unabridged, 8 CDs, 10 hrs., $40 ISBN 978-1-5247-7551-3

Helena Pelletier, Dionne’s title character, protagonist, and narrator, is living a happy, uneventful life in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula with her husband and two young daughters when that tranquility is shattered by the news that an infamous murderer and child molester has escaped from a nearby prison. Reader Rankin captures all of Helena’s fearful concern as she explains that the escapee is her father, Jacob Holbrook, a monster who abducted her mother at age 14 and kept her and Helena captive in a cabin in the middle of an uncultivated, otherwise unpopulated marshland. Actor Rankin moves from present to past effortlessly, switching from the soft-voiced but strong-willed adult Helena, searching for her father, to the confused, troubled, yet adoring child of a mesmerizing madman. She also gives two versions of Jacob: In Helena’s memory, the wilderness man sounds powerful and omnipotent and cruel. Newly freed after over a decade of imprisonment, he’s croakier, wilier, and unpleasantly ingratiating. As the novel nears the moment when Helena discovers whether the smart but humane daughter can defeat her craftier sociopathic father, Rankin’s enactment revs up the tension. A Putnam hardcover. (June)