In the 1950s, in the aftermath of World War II, five American families moved to Ecuador, determined to take the Christian gospel to a pre-Neolithic Amazonian tribe they called “the Auca.” The Waorani (proper name) were just as determined to maintain their isolation, and killed the missionary men at their second meeting. Four of the wives remained in Ecuador and one, Elisabeth Elliot, went further into the rainforest with her three-year old daughter to live with the Waorani. Joan Thomas’s fictional treatment of this incident explores themes that are both eternal and immediate: faith and ideology, autonomy and self-protection, cultural understanding and misunderstanding, grief and doubt, and isolation. Five Wives rises out of immaculate research, including a visit to the ruins of the Elliot house in Ecuador, and out of the author’s own experience with the thinking and imperatives of evangelical missions. The novel sinks into the points of view of characters who are bound by past choices, yet make their own personal bargains in the midst of a crisis.