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The River Wife: A Novel Hardcover – July 17, 2007


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; First Edition edition (July 17, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400065968
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400065967
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.2 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,477,346 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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

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.

Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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The characters were fascinating and well developed.
C. Grisham
Their stories cover the period from the great New Madrid earthquake of 1812, through the Civil War, and into the bootlegging era of the 1930s.
B. Case
I was sorely disappointed within the first 50 pages.
Robert Rosenberg

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

46 of 48 people found the following review helpful By Jean Brandt on July 18, 2007
Format: Hardcover
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 By VTS on September 13, 2007
Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Paperback
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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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Ruth E. Gladden on August 25, 2007
Format: Hardcover
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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