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Summary

The once-thriving houseboat communities along Arkansas' White River are long gone, and few remember the sensational murder story that set local darling Helen Spence on a tragic path. In 1931, Spence shocked Arkansas when she avenged her father's murder in a DeWitt courtroom. The state soon discovered that no prison could hold her. For the first time, prison records are unveiled to provide an essential portrait. Join author Denise Parkinson for an intimate look at a Depression-era tragedy. The legend of Helen Spence refuses to be forgotten - despite her unmarked grave.

©2013 History Press, Arcadia Publishing (P)2019 Beverly Denise Parkinson, S. J. Tucker

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  • Chet Kemp
  • 18-10-19

Take me to the River

The tragic tale of Helen Spence is brought to life by Ms. Parkinson’s story of houseboat communities on the White River.

Ms. Tucker’s performance gives voice to Helen and all who knew and loved her. I felt as if I was part of that close knit community while listening to this highly enjoyable, yet tragic tale.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 16-10-19

Enlightenment

This book gives you a grim look into Arkansas history, It’s very informative. SJ Tucker’s voice brought the story to life for me. I highly recommend this book.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Boyd Stephen Smith Jr.
  • 13-02-20

Tragedy Reveals Truth

A review must contain at least 15 words, even if you only need a few.

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  • Amy S.
  • 30-01-20

Loved it!

From a fellow river rat, write more!! I love my home town enjoyed it alot

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  • Anonymous User
  • 16-11-19

Murder on the Arkansas Delta

The Rivers that run through Arkansas have always held a certain magic for me. Growing up in Arkansas, I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing the etherealness of our waters and forests. Listening to Sj Tucker bring Denise’s words to life brought that childhood wonder back for me. I was enthralled in this book the minute I started listening to it. My heart bleeds for Helen and the injustices that befell her. I highly recommend this audiobook and the book itself that is full of historic photos, especially if you are from Arkansas and would like to be brought back to a time, not that long ago, on the Arkansas Delta.

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  • matt davis
  • 30-10-19

beauty and intrigue

This book was clearly written and then narrated by someone who knows and loves the land in Arkansas. The descriptions of the area drew me in and made me fall in love with it. The story itself was very amazing too. A look into the all to often forgotten history of those who were not wealthy. The story of Helen Spence is uplifting and tragic. This small peek into the life lived in that time and place is not only a treasure to hear but it makes me think. I now want to know more about that place past and present. Those people from then and now with all that has changed. It is a thing I have never looked into before and I regret that. thank you Denice White Parkinson for writing this and also to S.J. Tucker for putting so much love into this work. it was amazing.

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  • SHANNON BOEHM
  • 01-10-20

Intriguing true tale

This true crime story is based around a women’s prison and its harrowing inmate Helen Spence. I have lived in the area this prison was located my entire life and never knew about it until now. This book is really good. Well researched and chocked full of Arkansas history. Thank you so much Ms. Parkinson for bringing her story out of the shadows.

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  • James P. Nettum
  • 15-04-20

True History Presented Like a Folk Tale

I feel like our country has an odd relationship with the Great Depression. My grandparents were children when it happened, and my last grandparent died four years ago shortly after surpassing her hundredth birthday. An entire generation in the US has reached voting age without having that very personal connection to a defining moment of 20th Century history.

Thankfully there are books like Daughter of the White River. It may be categorized as True Crime, but that doesn’t do it justice. (Pun intended.) Yes, many crimes are perpetrated in it. But this is not a story that could be told by a podcast presenting gruesome details, or in the street-to-courtroom format of the various Law and Order shows, or by a series of Joe Friday voice-overs. Because this is very personal history, and the crimes that occurred cannot be neatly categorized as the inciting incident of a traditional narrative.

Daughter of the White River is multiple people’s stories woven together in the years before and after the crimes in question took place. Because most of the people were living in the Arkansas Delta, it is the Delta’s history. The Great Depression is a shadow that slowly blankets everything, consuming everyone’s lives even as unthinkable acts temporarily draw attention away from it. We the readers follow the lives of the Delta’s very real people, and events as mundane as skipping rocks or school are given the same attention as ones that could be considered scandalous. Through these details, we live history on a micro level rather than learn it on an academic one.

Special focus must be given to the narration by S. J. Tucker. Her vocal performance is best described as “earthy”; sometimes rough as tree bark, other times soft as rose petals, and always rich as soil. It is absolutely what a book like this needs. A bombastic performance would make it unbelievably romantic, and a completely subdued one would make it luridly ugly. S. J. Tucker presents it like everyone’s favorite relative speaking under the old oak tree. You accept her words as a simple story, and they stay with you because they are so much more than that.

This is history hidden under the presentation of a folktale. It’s not too short, not too long. It teaches without lecturing. It entertains without exaggerating. And it makes sure we remember what happened not that long ago, when we are at risk of repeating mistakes of the past.