19 February 2010

Guest Post: Johanna Moran on the Henry Oades Case

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.

Source: Review copy (see review policy).


Ronnica 3/18/10, 7:41 AM  

Interesting concept...I look forward to reading your review.

BTW, I do like the new comment widget!

Kay 3/18/10, 7:42 AM  

I picked up this book yesterday at B&N after reading a review of it on another blog. I'm fascinated with the premise and it is interesting that this is based in fact. It reminds me a big of the Cary Grant movie, My Favorite Wife, although that is, of course, a comedy. But it does include a wife that was presumed dead and then she turns up just as the husband is about to marry again. Thanks for sharing Beth and thank you for the thoughts on your writing, Johanna. Best of luck with the book.

DanaB 3/18/10, 7:43 AM  

Such an intriguing post! Johanna's insight was as wonderful to read as a good book, for me. On the list it goes, this book.

Johanna Moran 3/18/10, 7:44 AM  

Thanks again, Beth. And thanks, too, to your readers. Johanna

Margot 3/18/10, 7:44 AM  

I probably wouldn't have picked up the book on my own. But hearing the author's background story, has me interested. It's definitely one I'd want to talk over with someone. Great for a book group.

Dawn 3/18/10, 7:45 AM  

I had no idea of the author's story-within-a-story on this -- very interesting! Her mother must be so pleased that Johanna has taken the idea and run with it.

LOL at her mother "writing short fiction in her nonexistent spare time" (I've got plenty of that!)

Sandy,  3/18/10, 7:45 AM  

Wow! What a cool story! You read about stuff like this in fiction, but when it's real? I want to know more!

Lisa Munley 3/18/10, 7:46 AM  

How great to have Johanna's perspective on this!! Such a fascinating story..

Can you imagine trying to get ANYthing done with five little monkeys crawling all over you? I thought I had my hands full when my two were toddlers!!

Thanks, Beth, for hosting Johanna on her TLC tour!

Robin of M.T.B. 3/18/10, 7:46 AM  

I agree with Margot. Having "met" Joanna through your post, the book sounds interesting.

Bermudaonion 3/18/10, 7:47 AM  

I had no idea that this book was inspired by a true story. I love the story about her family!

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