Polson author Milana Marsenich is a first-rate storyteller who pulls you in with her wordsmithing: “Ideas cut into her brain with a curve they’d never had before.” She allows the reader to smell the Cattail Marsh, feel the fluttering heart of a cygnet, and remember being young.
This age-old story of light vs. dark, evil vs. good is told through the eyes and growing perception of young Lillian Connelly growing up at the base of the Mission Mountains in Western Montana in the 1920s. She is told that “an 11-year-old could create anything from science or God, or nothing … since all great ideas began in the hearts of 11-year-olds.” For young Lillian, this means embarking upon a quest to bring the man who killed her beloved wild swans and her father to justice, even as that man worms his way into Lilly’s home.
Ghost swans soar, encourage and protect Lily throughout the story. And she comes of age during the process of healing the wounded swan Pearl, her mother and herself.
Marsenich brings out the twisting helplessness children feel when the adults in their lives don’t believe them, and when the truth is so crucial to justice.
Readers learn the ways of swans and are immersed in the beauty of Montana’s Mission Valley in this satisfying tale. The author has obviously based her novel on the true saga of the valley’s trumpeter swans – hunted like the bison to near-extinction a century or so ago. With superb pacing Marsenich kept this reader engaged until I savored the last page.
Marsenich’s first book, Copper Sky, began what we can only hope is a continued glimpse into early Montana history seen through the lives of common folk. Highly recommended!
– LK Willis