I am currently reading The Wives of Henry Oades by Johanna Moran. This is a novel that has grabbed me from the beginning. I have connected with the characters, and I want to know what is going to happen to them.
So what's this book all about? I am so pleased and lucky to have Johanna Moran herself answer that question.
Before I even opened the cover of the book, I was intrigued by how Johanna came to write this novel. It seems that she has known about the case of Henry Oades for many years, and the idea of writing about him is almost a family legacy. I asked her to tell us more.
Johanna Moran, Her Family, and the Henry Oades Case
Thanks for inviting me to your blog. I'm delighted to get to talk to your readers about The Wives of Henry Oades. A little background: More than a half-century ago, my father, a law professor, came across an abstract on the Oades case, and brought it home to my mother, who was attempting to write short fiction in her nonexistent spare time.
Henry Oades was an Englishman who'd come to California from New Zealand, where his wife and children had been abducted by Maori, and in time given up for dead. Many years later, Oades remarried in America. When his first wife turned up on his doorstep, he was tried not once, but three times for bigamy, a crime punishable by hanging.
My mother was intrigued and gave thought to fleshing out the principals, but that's as far as she got. She may have had three kids down with mumps that week or a spectacular birthday party to host. In any event, writing and five children never did mesh. She squirreled the abstract away, perhaps thinking she'd get to it eventually. She gave it to me about ten years ago. The abstract did not delve into the interior life of either wife, and I was glad. I had my own vision almost immediately.
To start, I considered my own marriage. It's my first, but it's my husband's second. How outraged would I have been in wife number one's shoes, how confused in number two's? I imagined dutifully accompanying my husband halfway around the world, enduring and surviving horrific hardship once there, only to ultimately discover that he had "moved on" as it's so blithely put today. I pictured, too, opening the door to find my husband's long-thought-dead wife standing there, fully prepared to push me aside and resume her position.
Over the years, my mother, sisters, and I have hashed out The Wives of Henry Oades at length, revealing much about ourselves at the same time. Marriage, I found, is a delicious subject to anatomize, particularly aloud with others. How I'd love to be a fly on the wall, better yet, a participant in a chair, at every book club discussion.
Thanks so much, Johanna! I am so taken by the idea that this is almost a family tale for you and that the Oades case links your parents' interest with your own. And thanks so much for sharing the fabulous photos with us. I just love both the one from your childhood and the one with you, your mother, and your sisters -- with The Wives of Henry Oades, of course! (Click on the photos to see them full size.)
Be sure to look for my full review in the next few days. And in the meantime, you can read an interview with Johanna and see the reader's guide.
The Wives of Henry Oades at Amazon
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Source: Review copy (see review policy).