Big River’s Daughter
River Fillian is the daughter of the unofficial Pirate King of the Mississippi River in 1811. River and her father are river rats and proud of their independent and dangerous lifestyle. But when a massive earthquake devastates the river community, River’s father goes missing, presumed dead. River takes refuge with Annie Christmas, a buccaneer who has chosen a life of freedom with her many sons. However, River is pursued by buccaneers who want to use her knowledge of her father’s secrets.
Big River’s Daughter reads like a folktale, with characters larger than life – from Jean-Lafitte to Mike Fink to the tame tiger River happens to pick up along the way. Miller uses authentic dialogue throughout. Although initially a barrier to enjoying the novel, this unusual language was ultimately authentic and lent the book an air of legend. The sensory details of life on the river are convincing, and come through the narrative in a natural way. Along River’s journey she visits a wide variety of places, ranging from deluxe houses in New Orleans to shanties in the Big Bayou. River teaches the reader that you have to notice where you are if you want to survive on the river.
Big River’s Daughter is an adventure that often feels inexorable, leaving the reader wishing there were a little time to catch one’s breath. The ending was rather rushed and abrupt, which was slightly disappointing. Nevertheless, this book comes recommended for its innovative language and use of folkloric elements which illuminate an unusual time and locale.