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The River Wife: A Novel [Kindle Edition]

Jonis Agee
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $15.00
Kindle Price: $9.99
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Sold by: Random House LLC

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Book Description

From acclaimed novelist Jonis Agee, whom The New York Times Book Review called “a gifted poet of that dark lushness in the heart of the American landscape,” The River Wife is a sweeping, panoramic story that ranges from the New Madrid earthquake of 1811 through the Civil War to the bootlegging days of the 1930s.

When the earthquake brings Annie Lark’s Missouri house down on top of her, she finds herself pinned under the massive roof beam, facing certain death. Rescued by French fur trapper Jacques Ducharme, Annie learns to love the strong, brooding man and resolves to live out her days as his “River Wife.”

More than a century later, in 1930, Hedie Rails comes to Jacques’ Landing to marry Clement Ducharme, a direct descendant of the fur trapper and river pirate, and the young couple begin their life together in the very house Jacques built for Annie so long ago. When, night after late night, mysterious phone calls take Clement from their home, a pregnant Hedie finds comfort in Annie’s leather-bound journals. But as she reads of the sinister dealings and horrendous misunderstandings that spelled out tragedy for the rescued bride, Hedie fears that her own life is paralleling Annie’s, and that history is repeating itself with Jacques’ kin.

Among the family’s papers, Hedie encounters three other strong-willed women who helped shape Jacques Ducharme’s life–Omah, the freed slave who took her place beside him as a river raider; his second wife, Laura, who loved money more than the man she married; and Laura and Jacques’ daughter, Maddie, a fiery beauty with a nearly uncontrollable appetite for love. Their stories, together with Annie’s, weave a haunting tale of this mysterious, seductive, and ultimately dangerous man, a man whose hand stretched over generations of women at a bend in the river where fate and desire collide.

The River Wife
richly evokes the nineteenth-century South at a time when lives changed with the turn of a card or the flash of a knife. Jonis Agee vividly portrays a lineage of love and heartbreak, passion and deceit, as each river wife comes to discover that blind devotion cannot keep the truth at bay, nor the past from haunting the present.

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Agee (Sweet Eyes; Strange Angels) delivers an enthralling family saga set in Missouri's boot heel, a place so remote, "it's as if the whole state of Missouri has been trying to shake it off for years, like a vestigial tail." Seventeen-year-old Hedie Rails arrives in 1930 as the pregnant bride of Clement Ducharme at his family estate, but little does Hedie know that she's carrying on a tradition: in 1811, young Annie Lark is rescued from the Midwestern New Madrid earthquake by French fur trapper Jacques Ducharme and becomes the first "river wife." Hedie discovers this—along with the dark side of the Ducharme legacy—through old diaries she finds at the family home. She also learns of the other women involved with Jacques: Omah, the freed slave girl who joins him in river piracy, and Laura, his fortune-hunting second wife whose daughter, Maddie, is Clement's mother As Hedie's experiences become increasingly ominous (where does Clement go at night, and why does he come home beaten up? Are those footsteps she hears upstairs?), parallels develop between her life and those of past river wives. Lush historical detail, a plot brimming with danger, love and betrayal, and a magnificent cast (Jacques is larger than life, and the wives are sassy, sexed-up spitfires) will keep readers entranced. (July)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Agee's long-awaited fifth novel is an all-consuming experience. From the moment Hedie Rails arrives in Jacques' Landing, Missouri, in 1930 as Clement Ducharme's young bride, readers are swept into a tale of passion, deceit, and misfortune steeped in the best southern gothic tradition. "This isn't a land to love, is it?" remarks Hedie about the unforgiving, table-flat Missouri Bootheel region, and she's right. As she reads the diaries of Annie Lark, crippled in the New Madrid earthquake of 1811 and rescued by French fur trapper Jacques Ducharme, Hedie learns about her new husband's disturbing family legacy. The enigmatic Jacques amasses a fortune as a Mississippi river pirate, and the quest for his illicit wealth preoccupies the women of later generations. These include Laura, an Irish adventuress who becomes Jacques' second wife; Omah, the freed slave who's his partner in crime; and Maddie, Laura's daughter. This mesmerizing saga teeming with memorable characters, sharp depictions of frontier life, and lucid, beautifully wrought prose will haunt readers long afterward. Sarah Johnson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Product Details

  • File Size: 468 KB
  • Print Length: 434 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 081297719X
  • Publisher: Random House (July 17, 2007)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B000SEJC2A
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #325,804 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
46 of 48 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A tale well told ! July 18, 2007
Received from Random House as part of the early readers program.

Agee deftly interweaves the stories of four women in this historical novel. The book is centered around the four most important women in the life of French fur-trapper Jacques Ducharme. Ducharme's legacy stretches from the grave across four generations to impact the lives of all who call Jacques' Landing their home.
Set in Mississippi during the nineteenth century, The River Wife, mixes history, life style, a bit of mysticism and some great story telling to bring to life the saga of the those who settle in Jacques Landing.
I read one other novel of Agee's, many years ago. After completing this book I will be hunting down some of her prior titles. Agee tells a great tale, she is able to thread the past and the present together in a seemless manner.
I was a book seller in a small independant bookstore that has been forced to close it's doors. I know how important recommendations are to those who are looking for something new to read. The River Wife would be one of those titles I would be highly recommending to customers. The book would make a great "book club" read.
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29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The River Wife September 13, 2007
On February 7, 1812 the New Madrid earthquake - the largest quake ever recorded in the United States - hit Annie Lark's Missouri house, trapping her beneath a roof beam. Unable to move the massive timber and terrified by the aftershocks, her family decides to leave the sixteen year old girl to her fate, but death is slow coming and she lingers until a French fur trapper named, Jacques Ducharme, rescues her days later. What follows is the story of Annie's life as Jacques' "river wife," which Jacques' descendant Hedie Ducharme discovers among the family papers along with the histories of three other Ducharme women. Together these stories take the reader from 1812 Missouri, through the Civil War and up to the bootlegging days of the 1930's. I was riveted by Annie's story. Her legs never fully recover from their earthquake trauma and her fearless determination to adapt to both this setback and the rough, sometimes violent, life she leads with Jacques is captivating. Agee's skill as a storyteller is evident throughout the novel, yet, try as I might, once the novel shifted away from Annie I wasn't able to maintain my initial interest. I enjoyed the tales of Omah, Laura and Maddie, but Hedie's story is lukewarm at best. While the other women are strong willed and clever in their own ways, Hedie is timid and willfully ignorant of her husband's true nature. There were more than a few moments when I couldn't help but think, "Come on Hedie, you haven't figured it all out yet? Gimme a break." Hedie's story is interspersed between chapters, so naturally her character influences the entire novel - especially the ending, which uses her life to conclude the Ducharme tale.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Agee's fascinating story bridges the lives of two women over a century apart, Annie Lark Ducharme and Hedie Rails Ducharme. Annie is trapped in the earthquake of 1811, her family's cabin near the mighty Mississippi collapsing in the earth's sudden violence. Immobilized by a roof beam, Annie is left to die by her family, clinging to life day by day while in agonizing pain. When French trapper and river pirate, Jacques Ducharme, rescues the helpless girl, it is inevitable that she fall in love with this rough but tender man who wants only to protect her and build a home that will stand as a testament to them, Jacques Landing, a place of refuge for weary river travelers and traders. Annie becomes his "river wife", living rough until they return to the banks of the river and begin building Jacques' dream, Annie pregnant with their child. The building progresses against all odds, although Jacques and his cohorts revert to their piracy to find the means.

Despite her older husband's flaws, Annie is happy, reluctant to defy this man of such great ambition. Then a truly monstrous event destroys any forgiveness that exists between them, neither able to recapture their prior hopefulness. Though other Ducharme women people Jacques' life, including his second wife, Laura Burke Shut Ducharme, who gives an ageing man a new lease on life, none can replace his passion for Annie. In 1930, Hedie Rails Ducharme arrives, the naïve young bride of the older Clement Ducharme, returning with him to Jacques Landing where they act out the fate of a family blighted by tragedy and ill-starred relationships.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I wish there were ten stars! August 25, 2007
I wont tell you what the book's about because both the editorial and private reviews have done that very well. I needed to write this review because this is the most powerful book I've read in over 15 years. I am listening to the audio version and am about halfway through it. This book touched me and for a while had me bawling my eyes out. For quite a while...and I don't cry easily. I can only guess that the bad reviews are by people who haven't experienced some of these things. I will definitely read the other books by this treasured author.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars
Very different book. Would recommend reading it. The discription of the house , the land , the swamp puts you in these places.
Published 1 month ago by Sammy
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Story
I thoroughly enjoyed this book! With the history, painful struggles of the characters and a bit of mysticism made this book enthralling. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Florida Girl
3.0 out of 5 stars but just felt like I was hitting a maze
A twisting and turning of family ties with a detailed analysis of every moment.
Interesting strength in the females of the novel, but just felt like I was hitting a maze, at... Read more
Published 3 months ago by TW
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant
This book is brilliantly constructed: characters, plot, historical detail, drama, suspense, you name it. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Margitte
5.0 out of 5 stars Agee's River Wife is so good I read it again.
What a wonderful and complex saga. The kind of book you will not soon forget. Characters seem so real. Each and every generation lives in the time and place. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Barbara Patterson
5.0 out of 5 stars engrossing read
vivid account of an era and place i knew little of. deeply drawn characters spanning
many generations of history. hard to put down.
Published 18 months ago by mary anne
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Read
Agee's writing is flawless and the story very compelling. I highly recommend it if you like a saga that spans a lifetime.
Published 22 months ago by C. K. Thomas
5.0 out of 5 stars The River Wife: A Novel
Wonderful and Sad at the same time. A legend of a story, kept me suspended around every bend, twist and turn. Good characters and bad alike.
Published on January 18, 2013 by Melinda M. Spohn
5.0 out of 5 stars One of my favorite books
I absolutely loved this book. Interesting characters, loved the generations of a family that showed good and evil continued throughout their lives for four generations. Read more
Published on January 13, 2013 by Jane Nicole (Schneider) Johnson
4.0 out of 5 stars river wife
interesting story that jumps from the narrator's time period back to the ancestors' of her husband's time period. Read more
Published on September 6, 2012 by honeybee
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More About the Author

I was born in Omaha, Nebraska, and grew up in Nebraska and Missouri, places where many of my stories and novels are set. In all, I'm the author of thirteen books, including five novels, five collections of short fiction, and two books of poetry.

My most recent novel is The River Wife (Random House, 2007), which is about five generations of women who experience love, heartbreak, passion, and deceit against the backdrop of the nineteenth-century South. I'm the Adele Hall Professor of English at The University of Nebraska -- Lincoln, where I teach creative writing and twentieth-century fiction.

I'm married to the writer Brent Spencer. Together we are the indentured servants to two bichons frises and one horse. We live in Ponca Hills, which is on the Missouri River, north of Omaha.

I own twenty pairs of cowboy boots (some of them works of art), love the open road, and believe that ecstasy and hard work are the basic ingredients of life and writing.

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