Following the tragic loss of her father and near loss of her mother, Lilly becomes painfully awareof the fragility of life. With senses heightened and imagination stirred, she struggles to cope with her world forever changed. Life knocks her down repeatedly, so it’s a good thing Lilly is tough-minded and unafraid to fight for justice. In this beautifully written second novel, The Swan Keeper, by Milana Marsenich, I found myself worrying, not only about Lilly, but also her mother, Nell, and older sister, Anna. They all have very different reactions to their loss of husband and father.
We follow Lilly through the days before her eleventh year and shortly into her twelfth. The sudden awareness of life’s magic and beauty—in the face of tragedy—transforms her, as it becomes the necessary anodyne which allows her to face each new day after her horrific loss. Her relentless concern for the survival of the swans as she tracks their hunter, coupled with her growing friendship with Jerome, are also key to her ability to endure hardship.
The book evokes empathy on the deepest level possible. Marsenich captures both the magic and confusion of what it’s like to be eleven. She knows what it’s like to not be able to voice one’s truth – the frustration at not being found to be a credible witness to a crime. It is more than a little evident that this author has tremendous insight into human nature. I found myself getting frustrated—not with the book—but because I longed for Lilly’s mother, Nell, to get better sooner, and justice to prevail!