The Wives of Henry Oades
by Johanna Moran
Genre: Historical Fiction
Summary: (from the publisher)
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
Review: I would have given the first half of the book 4 stars, and the second half 2 stars, so I averaged them to get my rating. The story of the Oades family's trip to New Zealand, their life in Wellington, and their capture by Maori was well written and interesting, and I would like to have read even more about those times. Margaret was a very strong character who held her family together through difficult times, and I hoped that she would have a happy ending. Unfortunately, her character underwent a significant personality shift as soon as she discovered that Henry had married again, and she became weak and spineless. I found the endless trials and discussions with lawyers very boring, the mean behavior of the neighbors not understandable, and the character of Nancy both kind and crazy at the same time. I also felt that the story focused too much on the wives and not enough on Henry; his behavior seemed inexplicable. And sorry if this is a spoiler, but the ending was completely unsatisfying.
Rating: 3 stars