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Archive 08-19 GR Discussions > Wives of Henry Oades

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message 1: by Tera, First Chick (new)

Tera | 2564 comments Mod
Starting a thread for this book. I sent a message to the chick who nominated it yesterday. Sure hope this discussion goes better than the last one.


message 2: by Nancy (new)

Nancy | 4 comments I thoroughly enjoyed this book even though the premise didn't seem plausible. I think the original wife really got a bum deal! The writing was well done and the characters sympathetic. I couldn't believe the townspeople's reactions, although I know people felt differently in that era.


Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) I, too, enjoyed this book. I agree with you, Nancy, that the writing was quite good and the characters were likable. I particularly liked Henry as I found him to be ever so upstanding and a wonderful, compassionate man.

I do believe that this book was based on true events. The way the wives relate to each other was remarkable and the way the townspeople looked at them was pretty despicable.


message 4: by Tracy (last edited Nov 03, 2010 06:19PM) (new)

Tracy Phillips This book was a very fast and enjoyable read for me. I think some of my favorite parts were at the beginning of the book when the family first traveled to NZ and were settling down there. I really enjoyed the tender interactions that Henry had with his children. Of course the abduction section of the book had me sitting on pins and needles.


message 5: by Jennifer W (new)

Jennifer W | 2175 comments I really enjoyed this book, too. It read very fast for me. I was just thinking about Meg and Henry's voyage to Australia, when Meg miscarried. What was the point of her friend there, the one who sat with her and soon after that died? Why have that scene in the story?

Don't worry, Tera, I read this book recently, if our discussion leader doesn't show up, I've got a few discussion questions to supply.


message 6: by Nancy (new)

Nancy | 4 comments I think the point of the friend on the ship being included was just to introduce the thread of female bonding which was integral throughout the book.


message 7: by Jenn (new)

Jenn | 25 comments I just picked this book up today from the library. I'm hoping to be able to participate in the discussion.


message 8: by Julie (new)

Julie (julmille) | 391 comments Thanks for starting the thread...just thought I'd start with a quick intro question...
What made you choose this book to read? Was it an easy read? What were your initial thoughts after the first few chapters?


message 9: by Nancy (last edited Nov 01, 2010 02:09PM) (new)

Nancy | 1278 comments I bought this after reading the back cover and thinking it would be fascinating to read a story that was based on a real life event - even though the author apparently only had seen court records. I don't believe there were trial transcipts that long ago?? Could be wrong. How could two women share a husband under those circumstances? And we aren't talking a sensationalized TV version of a religiously prescribed fundamental Morman church kind of polygamy. It was a tragic accident, a misunderstanding, person going on with their life.

After reading the first chapters, I was wishing for something a little deeper and complex. On the other hand the author wrote in a simple, matter-of-fact style - to which there are advantages. For me, that gave the story some dry humor at times. And I like to have the opinions left to the reader.

It was a fairly easy read. Female bonding inspite of the hardships. But for anyone to be caught in such a situation, there are so many scenarios it could have ended with. Most fraught with pain and loss. Henry didn't resume a sexual relationship with his first wife. But he loved and respected her enough to make sure she was provided for and his children would once again have a relationship with their father. Could there have been a better way to do that? I don't know. Very interesting story.


message 10: by Jackie (new)

Jackie (findingjackie) | 214 comments I'll admit i just picked this up because it was a Chickie read. I'd never seen or heard of it until I saw it was on our reading list.

It was a fast read but I do think it was a bit shallow on the emotional end. I couldn't really get a feel for any of the main characters, really. I came out not really liking any of them to be honest. I think part of it was the fact that it was very hard for me put myself in their shoes. I think Margaret got a very raw deal.

If I had been the 1st Mrs. Oades, Nancy would have been gone. So Mr. Oades thought I was dead, now you know I'm not. Mrs. Oades No.2 would have to go.


message 11: by Julie (new)

Julie (julmille) | 391 comments Would you be willing to set sail with your husband and children to start a new life because your husband wanted you to?


Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) Years ago my husband had an opportunity to work in Saudi Arabia. It was wonderful money (all tax free I might add) plus benefits galore. I was pregnant with our third child. When we thought it all over, we decided against it for a number of reasons. It anyone got seriously sick, we would have to fly out to Germany for medical treatment and we, as women, (I had two girls by then) could not go off of the American compound unescorted. The girls would have had to be educated in the American school so interactions were also an issue.

I was pretty game for it, but my husband thinking of his family first turned it down. So, it is somewhat hard for me to think about what Henry did. Another book that covers so well what moving to foreign soil can do to a family is The Poisonwood Bible.


message 13: by Nancy (new)

Nancy | 4 comments Growing up in an Air Force family, I lived in England and in France during my school age years. It was wonderful for the family and for me. We were all richer for the experiences we had.


message 14: by Nancy (last edited Nov 02, 2010 08:52AM) (new)

Nancy | 1278 comments We are Air Force too Nancy, but a life I married into in my thirties. Difficult after teaching for nine years, having a life of my own and then being uprooted. However, we haven't lived outside the country. We've had the opportunity but extended parental health issues worked against us. Moving five times was enough. The experiences have been good, but the kids were too young to remember and appreciate how many places they have been.

I guess I didn't have a problem with Henry not taking his wife back. I couldn't imagine how I would feel if I had thought my husband was dead and then moved on with my life. It's been while since I read it, but 5-6 years wasn't it? The conflicted feelings would have been enormous. I'm not sure I could make my feelings go backwards. And I am not convinced that he married wife #2 out of love or loneliness, and perhaps a sympathy for her situation feeding into his natural caretaker personality?? I felt they grew to love each other. Make any sense?


message 15: by Gillian (new)

Gillian | 618 comments I admit that I abandoned this book after about 70 pages (right after Henry dug up the dead body), so maybe the book got a lot better after that....however, a few things really bugged me about the part I did read, so I chose not to continue.

First, I found the whole kidnapping sequence and the way that Henry dealt with it entirely unbelievable. I know the book was not based on a true story, but instead based on a newspaper article so may not accurately represent the "facts", but I still thought that a husband returning home to a seemingly dead wife and missing children would do more than bury the body and not immediately notify authorities. And then to dig the body back up....didn't buy it.

I also really didn't like how the Maori were portrayed. Maybe later in the book they were shown to be more human-like instead of the beasts that the author described during the kidnapping, but the part that I did read did not paint a believable picture of them.

I did a little internet research and found this article:
http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/art...
that basically suggests the whole story is likely a hoax.

So, this book was a bit disappointing for me, but I'm glad that some of you enjoyed it.


message 16: by Tracy (new)

Tracy Phillips Julie, I am not sure what I would do if my significant other wanted to relocate to another county. I think I would be somewhat apprehensive only because I am not very adept at learning other languages. I think that exposure to other cultures however would be very beneficial on a daily basis for an extended period of time.

My Mom is from Finland so I have traveled to Europe a few times. My mother was a nurse in the Chicago area and was going to stay in the States for a couple of years. She met my Dad while in the States and left her family in Finland to make a life with here.

As for myself I grew up in Chicago but my family then moved to a small town in Kansas with 1500 people it. I spent many of my adult years living in Grand Rapids Michigan and now live near Lancaster PA.


I do miss the big city atmosphere in many respects and I am a city girl at heart. It is nice from my current location that I am only about an hour from Baltimore and 1.5 hours from Philly.


message 17: by Jenn (new)

Jenn | 25 comments I'm about halfway through the book now. I totally agree with most here about the book is shallow. I would of expected a bit more emotion overall from all the characters.

I agree with Gillian that was so strange that he never notified the authorities. The reasoning in this situation just didn't bode well. I can understand the trauma of coming home to see your house burned down but when there is an unidentified body on the premises and your family has gone missing that'd be the first thing I would do. Although it sounded like they lived a bit in the boondocks so maybe it was sensible to wait until morning? (Even though he never went)

In all honesty I don't know if I could pick up my family and my life to follow my husband because of a job. Heck i couldn't move more than 2 cities from my mother and sister. There's no way I'd be moving to another country.


message 18: by Jenn (new)

Jenn | 25 comments I'm about halfway through the book now. I totally agree with most here about the book is shallow. I would of expected a bit more emotion overall from all the characters.

I agree with Gillian that was so strange that he never notified the authorities. The reasoning in this situation just didn't bode well. I can understand the trauma of coming home to see your house burned down but when there is an unidentified body on the premises and your family has gone missing that'd be the first thing I would do. Although it sounded like they lived a bit in the boondocks so maybe it was sensible to wait until morning? (Even though he never went)

In all honesty I don't know if I could pick up my family and my life to follow my husband because of a job. Heck i couldn't move more than 2 cities from my mother and sister. There's no way I'd be moving to another country.


message 19: by Tracy (new)

Tracy Phillips Okay, it has been awhile ago that I finished the book but I was thinking at some point the authorities were contacted to do a search. Oh, that's right I think that was after Henry had his accident. Henry's friend's wife who had been killed decided he could not do the search alone so then contacted the authorities for help but I seems likely two would have gone on searching without official help if Henry had not injured himself. Also it was mentioned before that it was odd that the wife's body was buried without an attempt at some kind of official identification process.


message 20: by Jenn (new)

Jenn | 25 comments Tracy I do remember that. I didn't realize that those were the authorities who went out searching. I thought it was a group of men he rounded up to go looking.

Back in those days did they have a formal process for identifying bodies? It seems it was just taken by Henry's word since I remember something about him spotting a tooth in the back of the mouth(?). I could be wrong though that is how they determined it was Meg. But still what did they think happened to the children since there were no other bodies found?


message 21: by Nancy (last edited Nov 03, 2010 10:58AM) (new)

Nancy | 1278 comments I guess I bought alot of what was happening in the book because I figured the time period and remote location. It did occur to me briefly that the situation wasn't all so plausible, but given a story that I thought was taking place "a long time ago, in a place far far away..." Sometimes I really get bogged down with details alike that and sometimes I just don't feel the need to be. It just didn't bother me so much. I didn't think that was so much the point of the story as the eventual plot of making peace with their intertwined relationships.


message 22: by Jennifer W (new)

Jennifer W | 2175 comments I thought that posse that Henry and the neighbor rounded up maybe wasn't the authorities, but was the closest he was going to get. Didn't someone tell Henry it would be several days before they could get an official force together to go look? What about his decission to go to California? Why not go back to England?


message 23: by Nancy (new)

Nancy | 1278 comments Yes Jennifer, I figured that was as official as it was going to get in terms of a search party in some little rural hamlet. Who would have had sophisticated forensic science at that time or place either? I did wonder why he didn't go back to England, but chalked it up to a wanderlust personality, one who I don't remember having family back there except his supposedly deceased wife's - who he probably didn't want to face. And figured he just wanted to start over somewhere else. Somewhere that didn't carry memories of his loss.


Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) I think perhaps, Henry wanted to escape all the old memories so he went to California to forget and really start anew.


message 25: by Jackie (new)

Jackie (findingjackie) | 214 comments I would have big issues if my husband wanted to uproot my life in a urban setting (for the time) and leave the culture where I grew up to move to rural, undeveloped place I could only get to by month long ship ride. Yep, that's how they all traveled back then but unless I had to flee my homeland due to starvation or safety issues, moving there would be a no for me.

I love to visit new places. But moving? I don't know. Especially back then. You couldn't go home to visit easily.. no phone, no internet.

I was sour on Henry from the time he made it obvious he wouldn't put Nancy aside. When Margret first shows up, he and Nancy had not been married long. They had no kids together. But she's young enough to be his daughter. She's pretty, slim, has all her teeth and she's not marked by the pox. Pretty snazzy for him to get new "fresh" bride and let the old one live on his scraps and charity. He was the one who wanted to move to NZ and Margaret pays for it. And keeps paying for it.

I also thought it was really convenient Nancy didn't realize she loved Henry until Margaret shows up and she might lose her meal ticket, too. Bleh. I'm just jaded, maybe. It was really hard to remove myself from modern thinking because the book just didn't pull me in.


message 26: by Tracy (last edited Nov 04, 2010 08:42AM) (new)

Tracy Phillips The more I ponder this book the more I realize the different sides of Harry. Some that are appealing and some not so much.

My first glimpse of him was on the very first page were he is very insistent with Margaret about the family going to NZ. He basically told her they were going. He was not considerate of his wife's feelings on the matter and did not ask for her opinion regarding the benefits or drawbacks of making such a move.

One of the next times you encounter him he is doting on his kids as they are on a boat to get to the larger boat that will take them to NZ and he seems like an excellent father.

I am not sure how I feel, as of yet about Harry in relation to the choice he made to stay married to both Margaret and Nancy.


message 27: by Nancy (new)

Nancy | 1278 comments It occurs to me that in some ways that one of the cool things about this book. There is no way that the author interprets the events for you so this book can truly be taken either positively or negatively. I still say that is part of what I liked - you are not told how to respond to the situation.


message 28: by Jenn (new)

Jenn | 25 comments I finished the book tonight. At the end of the book I have to say Henry disgusted me. I felt sorry for Margaret and Nancy was just plain annoying.

I felt that Margaret really got the raw end of the deal in everything. Even at the beginning of the story where she was forced to move away from her home and parents to follow henry to his new job. Then fighting to keep herself and her children alive and then to a homecoming which was anything but sweet. The poor woman just fought and fought and nothing ever went her way. It did appear that at the end of the book she was content with herself and there was a spark of a hope for her life.

I totally agree with Jackie about Nancy. When I read that part about when she realized she truly loved Henry that about sealed the deal with my opinion of Nancy.

I did find it endearing though that in this odd situation that Margaret and Nancy were able to forge a solid friendship in the end. I almost think that Margaret saw Nancy as her child and one she needed to take care of in a different type of way.

This is my first time in taking part in a discussion in a book and I am enjoying it immensely. It's nice to read other's opinions.


message 29: by Julie (new)

Julie (julmille) | 391 comments ok..next topic of discussion...Who was your favorite character in the book and why? Also, who was your least favorite and why?


message 30: by Jackie (last edited Nov 07, 2010 07:37AM) (new)

Jackie (findingjackie) | 214 comments I didn't really have any favorites, although Margaret was the one I felt for the most. I was also left wondering what a situation like that would have been like for the kids.

I disliked Henry the most. He had no consideration for Margaret's wishes in the beginning and no consideration for her at the end either.


message 31: by Sarah (last edited Nov 05, 2010 11:46PM) (new)

Sarah (sarahsaysread) I only have about a hundred pages left, but so far... ehh. Not that impressed.

It never really bothered me that Henry was moving his whole family to NZ - that's just kind of how it was back then. And I think that these days, if my husband wanted to move around the world to accept some amazing job, I'd do it. (Kind of easy for me to say though, because I don't have a "career" and never plan on having kids.)

I agree with everyone who says it's kind of lacking in emotion. I felt bad for Henry after the kidnapping (he was really depressed, and it did seem to me that he tried hard to look for them) cause he was trying to stay hopeful and the everyone around him was telling him that his family is probably dead and to just move on. But after that, he's kind of an idiot. And I guess I just don't relate enough to Nancy or Margaret to feel too much for them.

And Jackie, you made a really good point that didn't even occur to me. He really hadn't been married to Nancy that long - definitely under a year. Was his love for her really stronger than his love for his presumed dead wife and kids? Geez. And I thought the same about Nancy only saying she loved him after Margaret showed up.

Also, this is really bothering me... the whole time the Berkley area is giving them trouble and calling them Mormons, why doesn't one of them speak up and say "But he thought they were dead!" They never seem to even try to explain the situation.

I know I still have more to read, but I can tell this definitely won't be a favorite for me. The characters aren't developed enough for me. And if (from what I'm gathering reading this thread) Henry and Margaret never really rekindle what they had... then what the heck was the point of the story?


message 32: by Tracy (new)

Tracy Phillips Hum, still pondering who my favorite character in the book might be. Not sure I have one. There are some aspects of Nancy that I like but not sure at this point I would classify her as a favorite.

When she and Henry first met (while she was living in the house with the minister and his wife) she was very reluctant to except help from him with her husband's funeral expenses. She seemed very considerate of others even in the mist of her grief.

It was also very apparent that she loved her deceased husband very much. If that's the case it probably would have taken her some time to have similar feelings for Harry. It might be a stretch but could it be just a coincidence that her love for Henry began to bloom when Margaret and the kids arrive at the ranch?

Also thinking back on the book I do not not remember any part of it devoted to Henry's developing feelings toward Nancy. When did his feelings change to love? It does not seem like it was a "love at first sight" thing for him but rather an older man helping a younger women in distress out. Is there something I am missing? Perhaps at the beginning Henry was drawn to Nancy because he knew how devastating grief could be and he wanted to do what little he could to help Nancy manage under the circumstances.


message 33: by Linda (new)

Linda | 23 comments I enjoyed this book. It really made me think of how I would react in similar circumstances. Margaret was my favorite character (we weren't really given that much insight into Henry so I never became that emotionally invested in him). I was totally taken by the relationship between the two women. However, I think things played out as they did because women had so few options available to them back then. Take the same set of circumstances today and I believe the results would be profoundly different.


message 34: by Nancy (new)

Nancy | 1278 comments I agree with both of the last posts - I think we tend to be critical of the situation because we are viewing it in the context of modern times - not when and where it was taking place.


message 35: by Sarah (new)

Sarah (sarahsaysread) I don't think I'm exactly critical of the situation - in fact, it was a pretty decent thing of Henry to do to take care of two women and all of the children (goodness knows that would be a rarity today).

I think my biggest problem with this book is that it wasn't really a remarkable story... there was no real plot. Once Margaret and the kids come back and they all start to live together, nothing really changes. Even the three (very drawn out) court trials didn't change anything. They all just continue to live together. I guess I was just waiting for some sort of climax in the story that never came.


message 36: by Nancy (new)

Nancy | 1278 comments LOL - Sarah not you being critical in specific just a reader in general. You're right, this isn't a plot driven book! An exciting plot wasn't the point for me - people and how to survive a crazy situation.


message 37: by Julie (new)

Julie (julmille) | 391 comments What were you expecting would happen when Margaret and Henry and the children met up again in California?


message 38: by Nancy (new)

Nancy | 4 comments Call me naive, but I honestly thought Henry would annul the 2nd marriage and try to re establish a life with Margaret and the children. I put it in perspective of my own life and what I think I would have done if the situation had been mine.


message 39: by Nancy (new)

Nancy | 1278 comments That's kind of what I thought would happen. He would take her back. But I wasn't mad at Henry for not doing it. I guess I could relate to the situation sort of. It's hard to talk about. Without saying too much, I was engaged in my twenties and I was convinced he was my soul mate, the love of my life. He backed out and moved out of state. Five years later, when I was finally in another relationship and engaged to someone else, he reappeared, said he'd gone through therapy, etc. and wanted to try again. It is one of those "what if's" in my life. But I couldn't take my mind and heart backwards, no matter how much I wanted to - partly because I worked so hard to get over the pain, the disillusionment. It did take me years. I couldn't hurt the wonderful man who eventually became my husband. I loved them both. It was very difficult.


message 40: by Tracy (new)

Tracy Phillips Nancy, thanks so much for sharing your personal situation. It puts a modern day twist on things and reminds me that in life things are rarely black and white. No matter how much we might wish for the fairytale ending of first love forever after.


message 41: by Jackie (new)

Jackie (findingjackie) | 214 comments The logical choice for me would have been to have the 2nd marriage annulled as well. Although I could see how Nancy relates to this with her situation and how it was difficult for her when the ex turns up after he hurt her, Henry doesn't get off so easily, imo. Margaret didn't leave him by choice. And it was his own decision that took them to NZ.

I think one of the reasons I dislike Henry so much is I thought that Margaret would treated more warmly and that it would have been struggle for Henry to decide what to do. But it doesn't seem that way. He's happy to get the children back (and free labor for his farm, I'm sure - can you tell I've been in cynical mood for this read? lol), it seems that Margaret is just a burden, an obligation that he can't sit aside, not his loving wife who followed him half way around the world.


message 42: by Sarah (new)

Sarah (sarahsaysread) Jackie wrote: "The logical choice for me would have been to have the 2nd marriage annulled as well. Although I could see how Nancy relates to this with her situation and how it was difficult for her when the ex t..."

I got the same feeling. He was sooooo devastated when he couldn't find them and thought they were dead, but now when his wife comes back 6 years later he feels nothing?

I'm sure this made a great newspaper story at the time, but I would have been happier if he had just picked a wife and divorced the other.


message 43: by Julie (new)

Julie (julmille) | 391 comments What do you think is the initial spark of friendship that Nancy and Margaret have? Do you think that there is any way in modern times two wives could actually make this situation work?


message 44: by Gillian (new)

Gillian | 618 comments Becky wrote: "I'm glad to see a few other people were as unsatisfied with this book as I was. I just finished the book and, while it was written very well, it didn't blow my mind. I also agree that Margaret got ..."

That's one more star than I gave it, Becky!


message 45: by Patty (new)

Patty Abrams (paki1950) I felt there was poor character development and the book in general was shallowly written. It seemed obvious to me that wife #1 should remain married to Henry and #2 should move. I didn't feel the conflict the author was trying to engender. Overall, the story which could have been exciting, felt dull to me. 2 stars


message 46: by Jackie (new)

Jackie (findingjackie) | 214 comments I didn't really get a sense of strong friendship between Margaret and Nancy. It feels like that Moran is trying to imply a friendship between them toward the end but I wasn't really digging on it. Like Patty said, the character development was very poor so I never really did get a sense of their feelings and attachments. It's a shame, too, because this could have been a great story.


message 47: by Tracy (new)

Tracy Phillips I think the initial spark of friendship between Margaret and Nancy was the care and eventual enduring feelings each of them had for their respective children.

As the story moved on I really think Margaret and Nancy genuinely cared about each other. I think Margret had deeper feelings in the end for Nancy then she did for Henry, who for some reason could not seem to communicate with Margaret on any level other than avoidance.

This seemed very strange to me given the love he had for Margaret at the beginning of the book and how devastated he was when he thought she and his children were all dead.

From the time that Henry arrived in California until the end of the story he seemed to be capable of very little emotion.

I am glad that Margaret was able to form a emotional bond with Nancy since Henry was so distant to her. I am also glad that she was finally able to feel comfortable at the end with the living arrangement that she unexpectedly ended up with.


message 48: by Sarah (new)

Sarah (sarahsaysread) I never really felt like they actually became friends. They just became good at tolerating each other.

And Tracy, I agree. Probably the worst thing about Henry was how he just avoided Margaret like the plague, which is odd because his greif when she first went missing actually seemed really believable and touching.


message 49: by Julie (new)

Julie (julmille) | 391 comments What was your overall feelings after you finished the book? Would you recommend it to a friend? Would you like to see it made into a movie?


message 50: by Nancy (new)

Nancy | 1278 comments I guess I'm probably in the minority, but I still liked the book, even after so many negative comments. They didn't sway my overall interest in general. As I said previously, I already had a personal experience that colored my reactions. So I came to the book with a different mindset perhaps.


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