The Wives of Henry Oades caught my attention not because of it's crap cover but because of it's title. I love that title. It's perfectly clear what you are going to read about and doesn't give anything away. Well except that Henry has had multiple marriages so if that's a problem for you give this one a pass, if it isn't you'll be deee-lighted.
Henry is based on a true story. In the late 1880's Henry Oades and his wife Margaret move from Englad to New Zealand. Henry has a post as an accountant waiting for him there and everything is going to be great. Henry wants adventure. Margaret doesn't want to leave London, but what choice does she have? When they get to New Zealand life is tougher and much more rustic than they had expected. During a Maori uprising Margaret and the children are kidnapped. Guilt and grief stricken Henry searches for his family for months. Finally he gives them up for lost and abandons New Zealand for California. There Henry meets Nancy a young widow with a new baby. The two pool their grief and marry, each determined to start over.
Q: Knock. Knock.
A: Whose there?
A: Margaret who?
Q: Your wife Margaret Oades and your children.
Six years after their abduction Margaret and the surviving children have escaped their slavery and made their way to Henry's Berkley farm. And this is only the beginning. Henry decides to do the right thing and support both of his wives and families. A 1900's blended family. Once the Berkeley Daughters of Decency (Do you think they are still active?) hear what's going on they have bigamy charges brought against Henry. At the time bigamy is a crim punishable by hanging.
This book was so interesting. Author Johanna Moran (Another first timer!) has done an excellent job in taking the bones of this true story and fleshing them out into a wonderfully singular novel. The developing relationships, the frontier drama, the bigamy trial, the strong voices of the characters, Moran manipulates it all beautifully. This novel is a job well done!
P.S. It is too bad about that cover! It's awful. It makes a worthwhile, picturesque, startling read look like a sleeping pill advertisement. Good thing I saw the title first because if I was going to judge this book by it's cover I'd have walked by.
P.P.S. The Wives of Henry Oades is also a fab-o book club choice.