Two women discover they’re both rightfully married to the same man.
Serious, sometimes horrific developments are lightened by touches of understated, salty wit in Moran’s fact-based historical, a fresh and unusual story that moves from New Zealand to California in the 1890s. British accountant Henry Oades, his wife Margaret and their two children leave England for a temporary posting in New Zealand, where Margaret gives birth to twins. Their domestic contentment is suddenly shattered when a band of Maori, in a revenge attack, burn down their home and abduct Margaret and the children. The distraught Henry plans pursuit but hurts himself badly in a fall. After a slow recovery he must accept the fact that his children cannot be traced and the bones found in the house’s ashes were Margaret’s (though readers already know they were not). Moving to America, he becomes a dairy farmer and six years after the catastrophe marries widowed Nancy Foreland. But Margaret has survived, as have all but one of the children. Freed from years of slavery, they make their way home and then to California, where they reunite with the surprised Henry and Nancy. Two wives and one husband living under the same roof attract the wrath of the Daughters of Decency; harassment follows, then a series of trials, but the curious family emerges even stronger.
A beguiling, promising debut, combining clipped narration and capable technique with tender appreciation for the female characters in particular.