Saturday, July 9, 2011

REVIEW: The River Wife by Jonis Agee

 In 1811 a devastating earthquake ravages Missouri and all but destroys the home of Annie Lark and her family.  They escape but Annie's legs are trapped under a roof beam and her family is forced to leave her for dead.  A savior in the form of french trapper Jacques Ducharmes rescues Annie and nurses her back to health.  They fall in love and she becomes his river wife.

Over 100 years later Hedie Rails Ducharme- the pregnant wife of Jacques descendant Clement Ducharme- is tired of being left alone when her husband is called away by mysterious middle of the night phone calls.  In her boredom she discovers a few old dusty journals in the house which turn out to contain the stories of Annie and the rest of the Ducharme women: Omah-the freed slave who is fiercely loyal to Jacques, Laura-his materialistic second wife and their fiery daughter Maddie.  As the tragic stories of these women unfold, Hedie wonders if the Ducharme family is cursed and history is about to repeat itself.

This novel covers quite a broad period, starting with Annie in 1811 and ending with Hedie in the 1930's.  The story picked up right away with the earthquake and Annie's rescue by Jacques. All of the women in the story somehow connect to Jacques who, along with Annie, is one of the most interesting characters in the book.  I really loved the unfolding of their relationship which allowed me to see the soft side of Jacques who is an otherwise all around tough guy.  Jacques looks to make money wherever he can after the devastation the earthquake-scavenging, fur trading, pirating, inn keeper, dog fighting, smuggling-you name it, he probably had a hand in it.  Annie, legs severely mangled by the roof beam, stands at his side through out it all.  After tragedy strikes her spirit guides the rest of the women.

After the focus shifted from Annie to the other women the story was still good but not as interesting and attention grabbing as the first part.  Laura-the second wife-had none of the redeeming qualities of Annie.  This book has a lively cast of characters and I liked that the story focused on the five women.  The way of life for Jacques and Co. along the river was really fascinating to me.  The only part I really didn't care for was when the book took a turn towards the fantastical with potions for eternal youth and talismans.  I thought the story still would have been just as good without it.  Also some of these women, but especially Hedie could be really naive about what was occurring around them.  There were several points in the book where I wondered why the female characters couldn't see what was happening right in front of them-or were they choosing to believe it wasn't happening?

Other than these few qualms I really enjoyed the book.   The writing itself was beautiful  I just wish the story would have stuck with Annie longer.

This book is from my own personal library

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