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In The Waterpark, the Mississippi river offers the promise of escape while also freezing the fictionalized version of Cape Girardeau, Missouri, forever bound to that body of water. The novel begins with Helen detailing her father's desire to create a waterpark in the middle of Midwestern fields. In her mid-20s in the main storyline, Helen begins to learn that family responsibility and the desire to please one's parents never stops, even after death. As she takes control of her father's waterpark, she is conflicted by contrasting memories of the waterpark of her childhood and the realization that the park will ask for more of her than she is prepared to give. Furthermore, Helen realizes the consequences of her self-created loneliness as she isolates herself continually from the people around her, purposefully or not, and begins to thrive more in the memories of the waterpark than in her current life.