Friday, April 16, 2010

Book Review -- The Wives of Henry Oades

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


My rating: 2 of 5 stars








If I’m ever abducted by Maori natives in New Zealand, my husband better spend more than one or two fictional pages looking for me!

Henry Oades has moved his family from England to New Zealand and wife Martha is none too excited to be living in Oz. Once there, out of nowhere, she and her children are abducted by Maoris – something the reader is supposed to innately understand, because author, Johanna Moran, offeres NO historical background for why these natives would do such a thing, other than the assumption that it is commonplace -- or to carry out the stereotype: white man = good; natives = bad. From there Henry puts forth what reads like a feeble search, gives up, then boats himself off to American. Meanwhile, Martha, survives the abduction, becomes a respected midwife, and is released, all within a few pages. Henry re-marries Nancy; Martha finds her way to California, and believe it or not, finds Henry and his new wife. Thus ensues a very awkward love triangle, a community that is accusing them of bigamy, and worse – that they are MORMONS!

The first 30 pages of this book were really good and intrigued me. But soon thereafter, the wheels came off the bus. None of the situations seemed adequately developed; the transitions between the abduction, the search, Henry’s relocation, Martha’s captivity and release were abrupt and left me thinking, “huh?” I never once felt anything for these characters – except possibly Martha. You had to have sympathy for someone who has been abducted, escaped, crossed the ocean, only to learn that her husband is married to another woman. And to make matters worse, her husband didn't even seem to care that she was alive. Nancy, Henry’s newest wife, was whiny and annoying. Why Martha didn’t slap her from the onset still baffles me.

The legal battles the Oades had to fight at the end of the book were equally awkward. With Henry facing trial AGAIN for bigamy (isn’t double jeopardy a constitutional right even then?), the attorneys argue, cross examine, the judge rules, and Henry’s future is decided all in 2 pages. Surely the author could have spent more time developing this crucial scene. After reading this passage my first thought was, “that sure was easy.”

The Wives of Henry Oades was a disappointing read. That’s the best I can do for this book.

For a completely different review of this book, please read Suey at It's All About Books.

Book source: private purchase

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