The River Wife, Book Review

I have two MO’s at the library:

1- Use my Goodreads account to search the stacks for books I want to read. (Sometimes I remember the hold system and utilize that, but that rarely happens cause I head straight for the books, not the PCs.)

2- Pick a random aisle and browse titles until something jumps out at me. I would call this judging a book by its cover… more like judging by its spine.

I picked up Jonis Agee’s “The River Wife” with method number two. I love historical fiction and when unlikely stories are wound together so this sounded like a book for me.

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Hedie marries at the court house to a man named Clement Ducharme carrying her cardboard suitcase and the knowledge that her family has abandoned her. Clement takes her to a grand home in Jacques’ Landing, Missouri where she quickly falls in love with her red-headed husband. When he begins to leave her alone for days at a time she begins to wander her new home, searching for something to keep her mind busy while their child grows. She finds a series of leather-bound journals…

The earthquake in New Madrid, Missouri claims Annie Lark’s home and her legs. Her family leaves her to die alone, trapped under the crossbeam in her bed. A trapper named Jacques comes to her rescue while he ransacks what is left of her home. Annie and Jacques travel the river together as husband and wife, following the animals Jacques skins for furs. Eventually he gets enough money and influence to claim a bit of land as his own, the still unstable land that was created in the New Madrid earthquake: Jacques’ Landing.

Jonis Agee has several novels under her belt and it shows in this carefully woven tale. She pulls two stories together very well through the use of the journals… but then drops the whole concept three chapters in. (It didn’t affect the story in any way to just read the story as it unfolds.) It took me out of the story when I began to question, “How does Hedie know this? Who is telling this story?” Especially when Annie Lark is no longer writing in the journals. I have a very hard time believing that Omah, who would never divulge her secrets, would keep a journal of her innermost thoughts.

Heavy and melancholy, this book is not one I would want to read on a lonely winter night. I might start seeing the ghosts of Jacques’ Landing myself.

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