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The Wives of Henry Oades: A Novel (Random House Reader's Circle) Paperback – February 9, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
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“Equal parts love story and courtroom drama, Johanna Moran’s The Wives of Henry Oades is a compelling story of good people caught in impossible circumstances, and a community that rushes to judge rather than to understand.”—Meg Waite Clayton, author of The Wednesday Sisters
“A beguiling, promising debut.”—Kirkus Reviews
“Intriguing and evocative . . . [It’s] the two women bonding that give this book its heart and should make this a book group winner.”—Publishers Weekly
“Johanna Moran’s fine first novel is a fascinating story….Moran is a careful writer, a spare stylist who never wastes a word. She also has a well-tuned ear for the jargon of the period, colorful language that adds warmth, humor, and humanity to her story.”—Boston Globe
“Moran focuses her satisfying, briskly paced novel on Henry’s two wives. Their experiences and attitudes are very different, yet their love for their children and their shared husband brings them to an unusual and courageous alliance.”—St. Petersburg Times
“Told mainly from the wives' perspectives, the story hinges on readers' empathy with their unusual predicament….Moran's debut…will intrigue historical fiction fans and provide plenty of discussion points for book clubs.”—Library Journal
“Takes the bare outline of the legal case against Henry Oades and spins it into a heartbreaking story of the two women who love him.”—Herald-Tribune, Sarasota
“Moran’s debut is simply wonderful. She is firmly at home writing suspense-filled scenes, whether they take place among Maori captives or in a California courthouse. She also writes convincingly about the close friendships between women. The bond between women forms the core of this novel—a page-turner that readers will mourn finishing.”—Romantic Times, Top Pick!
Top Customer Reviews
Set in the 1890s, The Wives of Henry Oades tells the story of the first bigamy case in the United States. Henry Oades, his wife Margaret, and their children move to New Zealand when Henry is offered a prestigious accounting job. One evening after work Henry returns to their rural home to find it nothing but smoldering ashes with the skeleton of a woman inside. Destitute and shattered, Henry searches for his family for years before leaving New Zealand under the belief that the body in his house was in wife, and that his children are dead, having been kidnapped by the native Maori.
Six years later, Henry is living in Berkeley, California, a dairy farmer who has re-married a young pregnant widower, Nancy. When Nancy opens the door one day and finds Margaret and her children on the porch the lives of the Oades' wives and Henry are forever changed. Subject to persecution and abuse, Henry refuses to leave either wife or abandon any of his children.
Heartbreaking at times, we travel with the Oades family when they embark for New Zealand in the hopes of prosperity. We suffer with Henry while he searches helplessly for his family, and we feel his heartbreak when he finally believes them slain. We weep for Margaret and her children, forced into slavery for the Maori tribe who kidnapped them.Read more ›
That said, I have given the book four stars, not five.
Why? Johanna Moran painted a splendid and outstanding picture of Margaret, wife #1. She also did a good job with Nancy, wife #2. And in the beginning she drew us into Henry's mind and his despair when his family disappears and he believes Margaret has burned to death. I felt his pain. He does not know for a fact, however, that his children are dead when he leaves New Zealand and I confess that although I was still with him, I faulted him for leaving that country. Years pass and Henry marries Nancy, a very young widow expecting a child. Understandable.
However, when Margaret escapes six years of horror and is finally reunited with Henry, he shows very little sympathy and warmth toward the wife he so dearly loved prior to her ordeal. Yes, he provides for her and even suffers the injustice of the legal system and the scorn of his neighbors, but the author never allows us to view the situation from Henry's point of view after Margaret and the children find him years later.Read more ›
Back in New Zealand, Margaret and her surviving children eventually find their way to freedom. Once Margaret discovers that Henry is in America, she is determined to rejoin him. Some months later, Margaret and the children arrive on his doorstep where they meet Nancy.
I enjoyed this debut novel. It is difficult not to feel empathy for Henry, Margaret and Nancy. Henry moves on to a new life, believing that Margaret and their children are dead. Margaret has endured slavery fortified by her love for Henry. Nancy meets and becomes attached to Henry. Ms Moran does a fine job of bringing these characters and the challenges they face to life. Both Nancy and Margaret see Henry as their own rightful, lawful husband.
This story is based on a court case the author read about. In the novel the family eventually forges its own balance. I wonder how the story behind the court case really ended.
This is the incredible story of Henry Oades, an English man who attains a two year temporary job as an accountant on the coast of New Zealand. Moving his wife and four kids to a new country, they immediately settle in nicely creating a new life with a steady income for Henry. Soon after a local Maori tribe uprising brings tragedy and trauma to the Oades family as Henry's wife Margaret and all four children are kidnapped and their home torched while Henry is away. Arriving home, devastated, and at a loss as to what could have happened, the locals soon inform Henry that these kidnappings have happened before and are usually done out of revenge for an injustice done against the Maori.
Rousing a posse and search team to help him find his family, Henry is again met with another crisis as he is hurt during the search, left in a coma and laid up for a month. The trail becomes cold and hope of finding his wife and children become slim but Henry pursues and spends the next year searching, never giving up hope. After three years pass, Henry decides to declare his loved ones dead, and sets sail for America to start a new life as a cattle rancher in California. Putting his painful past behind him, he soon inherits the ranch and takes a new bride, Nancy, the second Mrs. Oades.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Interesting premise for a novel set on the late 19th century. While logic would dictate that the three principle characters did not do anything duplicitous, they were harassed and... Read morePublished 3 months ago by kim stadlin
The best debut novel I've read since Charles Frazier's "Cold Mountain"! You will be horrified, frustrated, touched and amazed at the turns and twists that involve Henry,... Read morePublished 14 months ago by Bob Joyner
The first half of the book is interesting insofar as it is located in New Zealand and deals with the abduction of a family by the native Maori tribe. Read morePublished 15 months ago by CLH
It was good, but not too realistic. Will be interested in our book club discussion. Will probably read another of her books.Published 15 months ago by Sonnie
Just not for me didn't capture my imagination. I'll read again in future to see if my mood created this.Published 15 months ago by Randee Dalzell
This novel had a rollicking good start and appeared well researched with regards to the New Zealand part of the novel. Read morePublished 16 months ago by Tessyjoy
Excellent !!! One of the best books I have ever read.Published 17 months ago by Mary Lynne Drumheller