The Wives of Henry Oades

The Wives of Henry Oades is the first published novel by Johanna Moran. It tells the story of an accountant from England who is sent with his family to work in New Zealand for two years. One evening, while Henry is not yet home from his office, Margaret and their children are abducted by native Maoris, in retaliation against the British for the flogging of a Maori teenager. Their cottage is burned down in the attack, and there is no sign of the family. During a frantic rescue attempt, Henry breaks his leg. By the time he recovers, all efforts to find his family have halted.

When Henry can no longer stand living in New Zealand, he boards a ship bound for San Francisco. He makes his way to Berkeley, eventually becoming the owner of a dairy farm. When Nancy, a young woman who is expecting her first child is left widowed by a fire, Henry proposes marriage.

Back in New Zealand, Margaret and the children have escaped the Maori tribe which has held them as slaves. Upon making their way back to Wellington, they are devastated to learn that Henry has left, and they spend many months making their way to California. Six years after their abduction, they arrive in Berkeley and are directed to Henry’s farm.  Obviously, Henry, Margaret, and Nancy are all shocked when Margaret and the children ring Henry’s doorbell.

Three weeks after their arrival, a sheriff’s deputy brings an arrest warrant to the house, charging Henry and Margaret with bigamy. The rest of this novel details the family’s three bigamy trials, as well as how they learn to live together under very trying circumstances.

This book is inspired by a true story which Moran had heard about from her father, who had studied it as a law student. It is a well-written story. The characters are all sympathetic and understandable. I would definitely recommend this book. Many thanks to LibraryThing Early Reviewer for sending me this fine novel.


To be published in soft cover-Ballantine Books-February 2010

The Wives of Henry Oades: A Novel


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