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The River Wife

3.38  ·  Rating Details ·  1,752 Ratings  ·  339 Reviews
From acclaimed novelist Jonis Agee, whom The New York Times Book Review called “a gifted poet of that dark lushness in the heart of the American landscape,” The River Wife is a sweeping, panoramic story that ranges from the New Madrid earthquake of 1811 through the Civil War to the bootlegging days of the 1930s.

When the earthquake brings Annie Lark’s Missouri house down on
Hardcover, 393 pages
Published July 17th 2007 by Random House (first published 2007)
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This will probably be the lamest review of a book I have ever written. The reason is that it was so brilliantly constructed: characters, plot, historical detail, drama, suspense, you name it, that trying to sing the praise of this tale in multiple adjectives will simply, as well as undeservedly, cheapen this rich story around the Ducharme family of Mississippi.

The masterful prose in the book, describing the women in one man's life and ambitions, felt like becoming part of ancient truths, mixed
Jul 09, 2008 Dona rated it it was ok
An actual line from this novel reads, "He pulled her down on top of him and surprised her with his ferocious lovemaking, the monster out of its cave once again." If that kind of writing isn't enough to deter you, perhaps the ludicrous melodrama will. Someone dies, is born, maimed or murdered on every page, except for ten extra-excruciating pages near the beginning of the book when Annie Lark lies trapped for five days under wooden beams during the New Madrid Shaking. (Yet, miraculously, she is s ...more
Jun 15, 2010 Rebecca rated it it was ok
eh. i didn't totally dislike this book, but it was one of those situations where i wasn't quite sure why i kept going ("falling angels" by tracy chevalier, anyone?)... my main complaint is that i found it to be kind of contrived. as in, i could literally feel the author trying so hard to get to a certain point that she decided the best way to do that was to hit the reader over the head with big flashing arrows that all but shouted "see? do you see? A is why B happened!! did you see how i gave yo ...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 10, 2013 Debbie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Intoxicating. Spellbinding.

This is the spellbinding tale or should I say haunting saga of the Ducharme family. From cover to cover author Jonis Agee spins a story spanning from 1811 to 1950 filled with mystery, greed, desire as history repeats it self again and again through the lives of the cursed Ducharme family.

This book was so good I couldn't put it down for even a moment. I didn't desire to rush but to take my time and enjoy every moment as the past wove it's way into the present and then
Aug 03, 2009 Ariela rated it liked it
On February 7, 1812 the New Madrid earthquake – the largest quake ever recorded in the United States – hit Annie Lark’s Missouri house, trapping her beneath a roof beam. Unable to move the massive timber and terrified by the aftershocks, her family decides to leave the sixteen year old girl to her fate, but death is slow coming and she lingers until a French fur trapper named, Jacques Ducharme, rescues her days later. What follows is the story of Annie’s life as Jacques’ “river wife,” which Jacq ...more
I like the WAY Jonis Agee writes, but I did not care much for this story. I don't like hopeless, depressing stories very much, and this one made me want to go lay in a pile of snow and just wait to die. I am a happy endings type of person, and I know this type of story is more a gritty, true-to-life life story. I don't mind a certain amount of heartbreak, after all, that what good romance is made of, but I have to have a silver lining, a glimmer of hope, a reason to say, "Boy, that was a good bo ...more
Oct 26, 2007 Jia rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: those who like historical romance with a modern kick
Shelves: literary-fiction
Only a master storyteller can spin a tale so intricate that you willingly succumb to its sticky web, and Jonis Agee has accomplished this feat with her first foray into historical fiction – The River Wife. The Nebraska native is the Adele Hall Professor of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and it was her childhood memories of summering near the Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri that inspired her to create a vivid three-dimensional world of brazen, complicated, cursed and beautiful wome ...more
Dec 01, 2014 Shannon rated it it was ok
You know how sometimes you read a sweeping novel, spanning many generations of a family, and there a zillion plot points floating about--but you get to the end and it all crystallizes in one big, satisfying conclusion?

Sadly, this is not that book.

I thought it was, when I started. For the first half of it, I was utterly spell-bound. It was a complicated plot, but I hung with it, just certain we were headed somewhere fantastic. But everything just kind of fizzled. I never expect ALL a book's loose
Sep 02, 2009 Susan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
More and more, it seems that authors feel they have to tell multiple stories in one book. They also feel that jumping back and forth in time, telling a historical tale along with a contemporary one will help acheive their end.Well, guess what? It rarely works. In The River Wife, we jump from the story of a teen-aged bride back to a tale of her husband's grandfather and back again. The (historical) story of Jacques Ducharme, and the town he founded was interesting, fun fiction. That of Hedie was ...more
Aug 15, 2010 Chana rated it really liked it
Arkansas history (and I'm not sure how much of it actually adheres to historical truth or is just good storytelling) and 5 generations of the Ducharme family. It is a great love story of Annie Lark and Jacques Ducharme and their descendants, the development of their land, piracy on the river, slaves or not, the Civil War, betrayals and loyalties of all kinds, farming, trapping, dogs and men, women and children. And through it all Jacques Ducharme and Annie Lark. Jacques is a character to love an ...more
Feb 12, 2008 Shannon rated it liked it
Recommended to Shannon by: Aimee
This was a good book that started really strong and finished somewhat weaker. Even with the slow finish, the story was fascinating and I liked the multiple generation storyline. It didn't answer all of my questions, but I think ultimately I like that as well because it's nice to not have everything laid out for you.
Diane Chamberlain
Jan 20, 2009 Diane Chamberlain rated it it was amazing
I nearly passed this book by because of some of the negative reviews here, but I started it and was instantly caught up in the story. I love well-written, multi-generational tales that span decades, and I particularly loved the way Agee linked the tales from the different eras. I found the characters fascinating and am so glad I gave the book a try.
Apr 09, 2009 Diane rated it liked it
Actually, I would give this book a 2 1/2. It had really good moments--I do love historical fiction and the idea of presenting it through journals. But the journal idea gave out after Annie Lark and the movement back and forth was somewhat confusing. The link to the "modern day" river wife was not well developed.
May 21, 2011 Terrill rated it it was ok
This started off promisingly--strong sense of place, interesting historical characters. . . but then it ended up being much too overly-plotted, full of fate masquerading as coincidence.
Oct 28, 2009 Wendy rated it liked it
This was an interesting story spanning several generations. At first, I thought it was the story of 2 women, Annie Lark Ducharme and Hedie Rails Ducharme. Annie lived during the Civil War era and Hedie was from the Prohibition era. When a 17 year old pregnant Hedie married the much older Clement Ducharme and came to live in the Ducharme house, she discovered Annie's journals and began reading them. At that point, the reader is introduced to Annie.

Annie's story begins with her as a teenager, left
Yna Fempia Paez
Jan 19, 2013 Yna Fempia Paez rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: booksale
The story as a whole is taken from the accounts of the women in the life of Jacques Ducharme namely Annie Lark Ducharme, Omah Ducharme, Laura Burke Shut Ducharme and Little Maddie Ducharme which also intertwines with that of Hedie Rails Ducharme, wife of Jacques' descendant Clement Ducharme.

The story I found incredibly fascinating and terribly heartbreaking. Reviewing it in detail without spoilers is impossible and I do not intend to hide this review for that matter.

The main flashback story star
Vivian LeMay
Mar 23, 2012 Vivian LeMay rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Historical and Family Saga readers

I love a book with history and settings that I never knew existed before. This book met both requirements in its first pages. One of the best opening chapters I've ever read.

The River Wife begins with the New Madrid earthquake of 1811 in Missouri. Annie Lark becomes trapped, her legs pinned beneath a fallen beam in her parents log cabin. In the chaos and fear of the quake, unable to lift the heavy beam, her family leaves her for dead. After days of suffering she is resc
Jun 11, 2012 A N G E L rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Jonis Agee has a very smooth writing style that kept me hooked from start to finish. I really enjoyed the "Roundtable" discussion at the end too. It provided a lot of insight into each person's mind. I wish every book had a roundtable discussion. The real love story was in the beginning with Jacques and Annie - before they started acquiring all the land, money, and things. Jacques was a real gentleman and loyal friend. I think in order to protect his heart he made a "deal" to keep him from suffe ...more
Nov 15, 2011 Emily rated it it was ok
I like the idea of this book as pitched on the back cover.. however, it was very slow moving and I found myself not wanting to pick it up again once I put it down. That said, however, I rarely leave a book unfinished once I start it, so finish it I did (with a lot of skimming). I was about 100 pages into it and had the thought "I think I've read this before" I'm not sure exactly what went wrong because I don't see how you can mess up a book with a river pirate, a ghost, and a search for hidden t ...more
Jun 06, 2010 Laura rated it it was ok
What a terrible story of misery. I do on occasion enjoy the epic tragedy. I think author, Agee attempted this here. However, I often felt that parts of her story were disjointed. I would become very involved in what I thought was a descriptive life story only to be torn abruptly out of it and tossed into another related life story. He dies, she dies, it was hard to keep up with the agony of the human spirit here. The funny thing is that with all of the tragedy you would think that the very emoti ...more
Wow, I don't often come across a book that I can't get through. I made it 120 pages in and I couldn't go any farther. It was an unpleasant, badly written book. Sorry, but when writing a novel, the incredibly mundane lives of early 19th century people, are not interesting. I gave it 0 stars, a first for me.
Feb 16, 2008 Christy rated it it was ok
I really liked this book in the beginning, but after halfway, I completely lost interest in the characters. This book was telling multiple stories within one book, and I got to a point where none of the characters/stories left held any interest to me. I never finished it, which considering how far I got is very unusual for me.
Jan 02, 2014 Lea rated it it was amazing
I absolutely loved this book! The first full chapter, Annie's story, grabbed my attention and wouldn't let go. I found the writing to be both eloquent and exciting. The story moves along at a nice pace, the characters are fascinating, and the novel has piqued my interest in the history of the Missouri bootheel. This is what historical fiction should be!
Apr 29, 2013 Julieb rated it it was amazing
Here's the "can't put it down" book you were looking for. Like "Ahab's Wife" or Joyce Carol Oates' "The Falls" or "We Were the Mulvaneys"---epic, gothic/ dark in places, beautifully written. Spans three generations from the union of Annie Lark and French trapper Jacques. Life, birth, death, tragedy, mystery, ghosts, treasure, river pirates, slavery...are you in??
Nov 22, 2015 Connie rated it liked it
This is a very good book. I enjoyed the story very much. I would say that the only negative for me is thatI thought that the story was kind of sluggish/ slow in it's pacing. It just seemed to take forever to get to the next large story point in the story.
Jan 01, 2014 Annie rated it it was amazing
I actually really liked this book. The lives of many women on the same riverfront property intertwine through the generations. Mystery, adventure and idiosyncrasies combine to tell a story which is hard to put down.
Mary Anderlik
Jan 22, 2013 Mary Anderlik rated it it was amazing
Shelves: shared-books
The richness of this story is intriguing. The way she told the family history made the characters lifelike and robust. This book will stay with me for a long time.
Jun 19, 2008 Julie rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this book. The pace was exciting. The hardships of earlier times are rarely described with such detail. Made you feel like you were there.
Callie Jensen
Oct 30, 2012 Callie Jensen rated it it was amazing
Shelves: historical-drama
Loved it! Twists and turns through out the book. Many intertwined stories. Will not bore you. Great book.
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Sinopsis en Español // Synopsis in Spanish 1 2 Apr 27, 2015 03:09PM  
Missouri - Show-m...: January Challenge/Read - The River Wife 29 16 Mar 02, 2014 12:29PM  
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Jonis owns twenty pairs of cowboy boots, some of them works of art, loves the open road, and believes that ecstasy and hard work are the basic ingredients of life and writing.

Born in Omaha, Nebraska, she grew up in Nebraska and Missouri, places where many of her stories and novels are set. She was educated at The University of Iowa (BA) and The State University of New York at Binghamton (MA, PhD).
More about Jonis Agee...

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“You can't push on a person so hard that they have to give up every single secret, she was discovering. Some things were better locked away in the heart where they could remain a hard, bitter kernel that they had become in such darkness.” 0 likes
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