50 in 2012: Book Five

The Wives of Henry OadesThe Wives of Henry Oades by Johanna Moran

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Happy marriage. Pregnant wife. Husband’s job calls for a relocation. Rocky move. New home is not what it was hoped to be. Tragic kidnapping. Family feared dead. Husband searches fruitlessly for years to find his lost family. Finally decides to move away. Finally decides to love again. Marries. Only to one day discover that his wife and family did not die…

The makings of a modern day soap opera. However, this story is told in the late 1800’s. Stigmas and one’s social standing can be life altering. Henry Oades has gained the reputation as a hard working, upstanding man in his new hometown of Berkeley, California having moved here to escape the tragedy that nearly broke him in Wellington, New Zealand. He and his wife, Margaret, had just settled into their new countryside home in Wellington. He was out on business when his wife and children were violently kidnapped by incensed Maori tribesmen. In the struggle, a neighbor woman was killed. Her remains un-identifiable in the ashes left after the fire that torched the Oades’ home.

After surviving years of Maori captivity and enslavement, Margaret and the children are freed and immediately set out to find Henry. They return to their Wellington home to discover that he has abandoned New Zealand for America. They also learn that Henry, along with the entire town, thought them long dead. Margaret finds his new address and makes the journey to America. Tired, elated to reconnect with her long lost husband, she soon sees that Henry not only has a new life but also a new wife.

Led by obligation, Henry takes in his wife and children; however, in doing so he sparks a community outrage. It is believed he is living in sin: bigamy, a hangable offense. Together, Henry, Margaret, and Henry’s new wife, Nancy are in a fight for their lives, as well as those of their children. Forced to prove their most unfortunate circumstances, and fight the labels bestowed upon them by unknowing neighbors, the women navigate uncharted ground and begin a friendship that gives them the strength to survive lives wrought with tragedy and seemingly insurmountable challenges.

A memorable tale of undeniable courage, love, and strength. Amazing book.

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