In 1811, moments after a devastating earthquake, French fur trapper Jacques Ducharme rescues Annie Lark from the ruins of her family home on the shores of Mississippi. While Jacques nurses her back to health, Annie learns to love the strong, brooding man and becomes his "River Wife."
More than a century later, in 1930, Hedie Rails comes to Jacques' Landing to marry Clement Ducharme, a direct descendant of the fur trapper and river pirate. When, night after late night, mysterious phone calls take Clement from their home, a pregnant Hedie finds comfort in a set of old leather-bound journals. But as she reads of Jacques' disturbing history-- his tragedy-stricken romance with Annie; his exploits with Omah, a freed slave who joins him as a river raider; his life with his second wife, Laura, and their daughter, Little Maddie, who inherits her father's dream and passion for the land-- Hedie fears that history is repeating itself with Jacques' kin.
Through intertwined stories, Agee vividly portrays a lineage of love and heartbreak, passion and deceit, as each river wife comes to discover that blind devotion cannot keep the past from haunting the present.
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 or superlatives 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 with modern introspection about love, ambition, destitute, happiness, magic and a huge dollop of mystery. French fur trapper, Jaques Ducharme, ensured his legacy in every single person who ever crossed his path. He transformed maiden angels into villainous witches using love and cruelty to fuel their high-spirited dedication to him, even after their death. He was Deity and Devil, but most of all, an ambitious survivor of life during The New Madrid Quake, beginning December 16th 1811, and ending March of 1812. It produced more than 2000 after shocks. The quake became a metaphor in the lives of the women who became part of Ducharme's life and legacy.
As a non-American citizen, this fictional tale captured everything: imagination, curiosity, interest, passion and compassion to such an extent that it became impossible to put it down. All the elements in the book were perfectly balanced and developed yet detailed enough to feel part of the old house with all the people who once lived in it or passed its front door through the different periods of American history. Then there was the family grave yard to consider...
A brilliant read. In fact, I am leaving a part of myself there, closing the book.
ABSOLUTELY RECOMMENDED TO EVERYONE!!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jonis Agee was born in Omaha, Nebraska and 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). She is Adele Hall Professor of English at The University of Nebraska — Lincoln, where she teaches creative writing and twentieth-century fiction. She is the author of twelve books, including five novels — Sweet Eyes, Strange Angels, South of Resurrection, The Weight of Dreams, and her most recent, The River Wife — and five collections of short fiction — Pretend We've Never Met, Bend This Heart, A .38 Special and a Broken Heart, Taking the Wall, and Acts of Love on Indigo Road. She has also published two books of poetry: Houses and Mercury.
In her newest novel, The River Wife (Random House, 2007), five generations of women experience love and heartbreak, passion and deceit against the backdrop of the nineteenth-century South. The book has been selected by the Book of the Month Club, the Literary Guild, and as a main selection by the Quality Paperback Book Club.
Jonis Agee's awards include ForeWord Magazine's Editor's Choice Award for Taking the Wall and the Gold Medal in Fiction for Acts of Love on Indigo Road; a National Endowment for the Arts grant in fiction; a Loft-McKnight Award; a Loft-McKnight Award of Distinction; and two Nebraska Book Awards (for The Weight of Dreams and Acts of Love on Indigo Road. Three of her books — Strange Angels, Bend This Heart, and Sweet Eyes — were named Notable Books of the Year by The New York Times.
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.
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