Title: The Wives of Henry Oades
Author: Johanna Moran
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Publication Date: February 9, 2010
Paperback: 384 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
When Henry Oades accepts an accountancy post in New Zealand, his wife, Margaret, and their children follow him to exotic Wellington. But while Henry is an adventurer, Margaret is not. Their new home is rougher and more rustic than they expected—and a single night of tragedy shatters the family when the native Maori stage an uprising, kidnapping Margaret and her children.
For months, Henry scours the surrounding wilderness, until all hope is lost and his wife and children are presumed dead. Grief-stricken, he books passage to California. There he marries Nancy Foreland, a young widow with a new baby, and it seems they’ve both found happiness in the midst of their mourning—until Henry’s first wife and children show up, alive and having finally escaped captivity.
Narrated primarily by the two wives, and based on a real-life legal case, The Wives of Henry Oades is the riveting story of what happens when Henry, Margaret, and Nancy face persecution for bigamy. Exploring the intricacies of marriage, the construction of family, the changing world of the late 1800s, and the strength of two remarkable women, Johanna Moran turns this unusual family’s story into an unforgettable page-turning drama.
The Wives of Henry Oades is a heart-breakingly beautiful novel of Henry Oades, a man who through a series of extremely unfortunate events finds himself in the oddest of circumstances. The novel opens with Henry and his wife Margaret living in England and Henry is soon to be dispatched to New Zealand. It is quite evident that Henry is not only a doting father but also an extremely loving and considerate husband. The reader learns of Margaret’s practical and loving nature and cannot help but like Margaret and her lovely children. When his home is burned and his family is missing, Henry continues to search for them, knowing they were taken my the Maori and not knowing whether the body found in his burned down home was that of his wife or her dear friend Mrs. Bell. Finally Henry comes to realize his family is lost to him, although Henry does not know if any of them are dead, instead choosing to leave New Zealand forever, he heads to Berkeley, California. Leaving without a penny to his name he was fortunate enough to meet up with an American who provides him a job as a farm hand. After five years, Henry meets a newly widowed and penniless woman, Nancy. Nancy is quite young, pregnant, and left with very little money, yet she and Henry marry and begin a new life together quite happy and content until his first wife Margaret and their three children appear. The trouble begins when word gets out that Henry Oades has two wives and soon trials begin. Moran does an exceedingly excellent job describing the various journeys and foreign lands while throughout her writing the reader gets a feel for Margaret, Nancy and for a time, Henry. While I found The Wives of Henry Oades to be a page-turner, reading well into the night, I was surprised when Moran ceased telling the story from Henry’s perspective. Once he is reunited with the family he thought dead, the reader never gets a clear picture of what he is feeling. It had only been five years and yet he appears to keep his distance from not only Margaret, a woman he clearly loved dearly, but also his children that he was so devoted to. The court scenes were expertly written and the characters spring to life compliments of Moran’s brilliant writing. I highly recommend The Wives of Henry Oades to anyone, as it truly is a beautiful novel. For those is book groups there is a reader’s guide included and this would make a wonderful book to discuss.
Johanna Moran comes from a long line of writers and lawyers. She lives on the west coast of Florida with her husband, John. The Wives of Henry Oades is her first novel.
I received a complimentary copy of The Wives of Henry Oades by Johanna Moran to be a part of this tour and offer my honest review of the novel. Receiving a complimentary copy in no way reflected my review of aforementioned novel.