The 19th Wife: A Novel
The 19th Wife: A Novel

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Faith, I tell them, is a mystery, elusive to many, and never easy to explain.

Sweeping and lyrical, spellbinding and unforgettable, David Ebershoff’s The 19th Wife combines epic historical fiction with a modern murder mystery to create a brilliant novel of literary suspense.

It is 1875, and Ann Eliza Young has recently separated from her powerful husband, Brigham Young, prophet and leader of the Mormon Church. Expelled and an outcast, Ann Eliza embarks on a crusade to end polygamy in the United States. A rich account of a family’s polygamous history is revealed, including how a young woman became a plural wife.

Soon after Ann Eliza’s story begins, a second exquisite narrative unfolds–a tale of murder involving a polygamist family in present-day Utah. Jordan Scott, a young man who was thrown out of his fundamentalist sect years earlier, must reenter the world that cast him aside in order to discover the truth behind his father’s death.

And as Ann Eliza’s narrative intertwines with that of Jordan’s search, readers are pulled deeper into the mysteries of love and faith.

From the Hardcover edition.

Customer Reviews:

  • The Power of Religion
    The author makes an excellent point toward the end of the book that many religions pontificate that their religion is the only religion and if not followed, there will be no salvation or happiness. So true in this excellent of novel which weaves a story about the 19th wife of Brigham Young, an unusual woman of independent thought, Ann Eliza, and a modern day story of murder among the Firsts, a devout sect of the Mormons in Utah.

    The Mormon story is told with clarity and brings forth the sins of the religion as it professes power over its "Saints." I thoroughly enjoyed both stories but the book did become tedious and plodding. It took a long time for both stories to culminate into a conclusion. Jordan, who is a Gay "First", is exiled from his home but later returns when his mother is accused of murdering his father. His father has many wives and children. His interactions with other Mormons and his strong survival values trump the present day religious fervor. It is a good story but the author writes more of the past and he sets up the reader to learn more about the digression of the Mormons in their early history.

    Plural marriage takes center stage. No matter what we all know of the Mormons, our fascination with polygamy is foremost. And so it seems after all the history we know, the Prophets (Joseph Smith, Brigham Young and modern day ones) used religion to satisfy their sexual hungers. The sister wives and their children became subservient to their husbands without any opportunity to question. If they questioned, they were either exiled or punished with a sharp reduction in their standard of living. Modern education, of course, was not allowed.

    We have become more interested in the Mormons since Mitt Romney ran for President as a Republican. What I thought was very interesting was that many of the leaders of the Mormons were astute businessmen and used their prosperity to further their religious power.

    I believe this book would make a great movie and would be timely as the world continues to use religion to punish, kill or love thy neighbor. ...more info
  • Awesome!
    This book was actually amazing and I could not put it down. Perhaps it was so interesting because I live in Utah, the mecca of mormonism. Each time I sat down and read the book, I was both angry and dumbfounded at the same time. The book had a big impact to say the least. You are angry over the things that actually happened, and you are left dumbfounded, wondering how the mormons of today, could possibly call Joseph Smith and Brigham Young their prophets. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in learning more about the mormon religion. I also loved that the information was based on factual data, the author, footnoting where the information came from. Enjoy, you wont be sorry!...more info
  • Enlightening and Satisfying Read From Start to Finish
    Perfect for : Personal reading, Book Club reading

    In a nutshell: What can I say - I was curious about this book, and a little nervous to read it after reading some early reviews, but I've really enjoyed it!! I've learned a lot, and the book is fascinating. It is written a little differently than most books - it is two stories told simultaneously throughout the book. The story of Ann Eliza Young (Brigham Young's 19th wife, late 1800's) is told from the time of her parents involvement in the Firsts section of the Mormons, through her crusade to end polygamous relationships in the United States. We also read the current-day story of Jordan Scott, who was thrown out of the compound in Utah at 14 years of age because the Prophet told his parents he needed to go - how amazing is that!! His mother (wife 19 out of 25ish wives) is accused of murdering his father six years after he leaves, and we learn a lot about the inner workings of the compound as Jordan digs into what really happened. In addition to the two stories, some of the passages in the book are not really chapters, but rather types of documents that help tell the story and present the reader with information: preface, essay, LDS (Latter-Day Saints) archive materials, newspaper articles, letters, etc. I found these to be fascinating, adding to the story rather than detracting from it. I just can't stop talking about this book to my friends and relatives! It's a great read, and I love Jordan's "family" by the end of the book!

    My Review:
    While the story is written as fiction, and the author has a note at the back of the book confirming that, it is factually based. I found the book very enlightening and entertaining.

    Characters: David Ebershoff has done a wonderful job of creating believable characters in both the stories taking place within the book. He gives us a good idea of how the Firsts got a hold on people, what the Prophet was like, and how people lived in the late 1800's under his leadership. He paints a very believable story. Additionally, he does well in the modern-day story of Jordan and his mother, showing sometimes harsh realities facing families and children within the polygamous community. I really like what happened with Jordan's "family" at the end of the book.

    Story-Line: The story-line was fascinating - much better than I expected it to be. It slowly drew me in, to the point that I just had to keep reading to find out what happened next! It also gave me a lot to think about, which I find refreshing. I was fascinated to learn that similarly to the Underground Railroad during the time of slavery in the United States, there was similar help for people wanting to leave the Prophet's compound.

    Readability: This was a very enjoyable read. The use of alternate reading sources (letters, articles, archives, etc instead of only having traditional chapters) was fun (I had read some other reviews that said it was distracting and not helpful, but I disagree - possibly because I was warned ahead of time? I like to think I would have liked this style regardless). The transitions between the past and present-day stories was good and led the reader nicely through an understanding and development of the story.

    Overall: A very enlightening and enjoyable book! I will be recommending this book to the book clubs I participate in - it would be a great book club read (the author has provided Reading Group Questions), providing readers with plenty to think about and discuss. Even if you don't normally read this type of book, stretch outside your comfort zone and give this book a try!

    About the Author:
    This is David Ebershoff's fourth book. He lives in New York, where he teaches classes at Columbia University (he has also taught at New York University and Princeton)....more info
  • The Problem with Plurality
    The 19th Wife was a disappointment. First, it's too long and thereby gets in a muddle among its many perspectives and voices which fail to come together in an interesting way. As a result, many of the characters seem flat. I considered, as I was reading, how much more efficiently the story of polygamy, the 19th wife, and the founding of the LDS church could've been told in a non-fiction format. Certainly there seemed enough material for it, but ultimately, I believe, not enough new insight to make a significant contribution to that vast literature. The central theme, the solving of a murder mystery, allows the author opportunity to give the reader background information and historical matter. Unfortunately, the murder mystery is quite thin in terms of its plot and resolution. The best characters -- Jordan, Tom, and Johnny -- are practically interchangable, their inner lives as barren (and perhaps deceptively complex, but the author never gets around to exploring that) as the desert they inhabit. And most disappointingly, the voice of the 19th Wife, both of the past and in the fictional present, is lifeless and unsympathetic. ...more info
  • Good, Not Great
    This was an interesting book. It flipped between both a present day murder mystery, ostensibly committed by a FLDS wife, and a historical novel about the practice of polygamy in the early LDS church (and how and where the modern day Church and the "Firsts" diverged on the issue). While I appreciate the different feel that the author tried to create with his novel (modern and historical and the social contexts that still exist), it just didn't quite work for me. It really should have been one or the other, but there wasn't quite enough good material to make it a great novel if it HAD just stuck to one storyline. I get that they were to be intertwined, but it felt a bit forced to me. I enjoyed the historical context, although I'm always wary of how much is fictionalized. Good, but not great, and for the length, I'm not sure it was worth the time.
    ...more info
  • Enjoyable and thought provoking
    I listened to this book on my Ipod. The characters are all multidimensional. Their stories are well developed and very interesting. The narration is well performed. I highly recommend this book for either a read or a listen....more info
  • A Historical Rework
    The one good thing I can say about this book is that it's an easy read. The bad thing is that I found the subject matter a bit trite and the main character, Jordan, had a one-dimensional personality.

    The entire book was very black and white. I find it very disappointing to read a book that has only bad things to say about a subject matter (in this case polygamy). If it were such a black and white issue, no one would practice polygamy. But it's not and I wish that the author had given it more credence. I had a hard time believing the character when his story sounded incredibly outlandish.

    I also did not like the fact that the author rewrote Ann Eliza's story. I did not see the purpose of it and I found it a bit misleading, knowing that there was an actual memoir out there.

    I do have to say that the book made me very interested in Brigham Young and Ann Eliza. I would like to find out more about these characters and the real lives that they had lived....more info
  • Good, but with some significant problems for the reader
    This is two stories woven together. Unfortunately, the two stories do not hold the reader's attention equally, thus you will find yourself wondering how many pages until he gets back to the story I'm interested in. I read it understanding it was a work of fiction, but, like most well-written historical fiction, the bits of historical "fact" blur the distinction. No matter. The book has some strong themes, the best of which is a clear argument against tolerance of polygamy, likening it to slavery, rejecting the religious freedom excuse. I hope this helps some sit up and take notice that children's lives are being ruined by modern-day polygamists.

    This story could have been told without the main character being gay, but certainly without the associated nauseating gratuitous gay lifestyle verbiage. That problem, alone, will limit my ability to recommend it in good conscience to those who would find it offensive. Without it, this would have held far greater appeal. It definitely ruined the author's ability to convey the unyielding attachment of the plural wife to her community. I found myself wondering if I might choose just about anything other than a shack-up gay motel room household as well. ...more info
  • A totally absorbing read about Mormonism, past & present
    As a teenager, I learned about the Mormons from the Sherlock Holmes book THE SIGN OF THE FOUR. Since then, I've read about them but nowhere have I seen so compelling and absorbing a history as what David Ebershoff has written. He has taken two very dramatic situations, more than 100 years apart, and used his characters to provide insights into the religion, the circumstances of the U.S. in the 1800s and recent times, and the role of women in the different centuries. Unlike some reviewers, I wasn't bothered by the back and forth between the time periods but found that this technique added depth and interest.

    Several reviewers mentioned Jon Krakauer's UNDER THE BANNER OF HEAVEN for a modern take on the "Firsts" = i.e., those Mormons who still believe in plural wives. That was an excellent book but this one makes a great companion piece.

    By serendipity, the book was published at almost the same time that the U.S. government raided the camp/cult of polygamists in Texas. THE 19th WIFE clarifies alot of the issues raised in that raid - the lack of identities for the children, the "marriages" of minors, the paranoia of the residents of the settlement, the role of Warren Jeffs as "prophet" and even the style of dress and hair.

    The book is long so be prepared to settle in but it is worth the time. An outstanding read! ...more info
  • From S. Krishna's Books

    With shows like HBO's Big Love and books like Jon Krakauer's Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith, fundamental Mormonism (not to be confused with regular Mormonism, LDS) has been capturing the attention of more and more people over the past few years. David Ebershoff's The 19th Wife capitalizes on this wave, telling the story of the origin of plural wives within the Mormon church through the eyes of Ann Eliza Young. He mirrors that story with the modern day tale of a boy searching for answers when his mother is accused of killing his father.

    As is often the issue when two stories are juxtaposed like this, one is infinitely more interesting than the other. Jordan's search for the truth behind his father's murder and his return to the polygamous sect where he was raised is captivating. The way Ebershoff paints the plight of these modern women living in polygamous marriages is horrifying. I also appreciated Jordan's argument - it is sometimes difficult to reconcile respect for religious belief when presented with an issue such as this. But when innocent children are introduced into the mix, it becomes our concern. I found this storyline utterly captivating and was hooked from beginning to end.

    The problem came with Ann Eliza Young's story. I found it very interesting in the beginning, but as the novel progressed, the story really dragged. I was racing through her story in order to get back to Jordan's. What happened to Ann Eliza was very interesting, don't get me wrong, but in Ebershoff's effort to give equal weight to the two stories, he inadvertantly stretched Ann Eliza's too far.

    The 19th Wife is told through different eyes; Jordan's, Ann Eliza's, Brigham Young's, Harriet Beecher Stowe's, and Kelly's, a girl at BYU (Brigham Young University) who is completing a master's thesis on polygamy. The technique is effective and keeps the reader interesting, but like I said earlier, less time with Ann Eliza would have been appreciated.

    If you are interested in the subject of Mormon history or polygamy, The 19th Wife is definitely a book to read. Though everything is fictionalized, it is based on history. The subject is fascinating and heartbreaking at the same time - it is horrible to think that there are women in this plight in this day and age. I'm glad that public awareness about the issue has risen.

    Thank you to Random House for sending me this book to review. ...more info
  • Just 'OK'...not 'Great'
    My suggestion would be to borrow from the library since this book isn't for everyone and some may not have the patience to follow the plots all the way through. It could get dreary at times and I was eagerly anticipating the ending (so that I too could return my copy to the library)....more info
  • The 19th Wife
    This was a most enlightening and interesting read. Though the book is fiction, it draws on the memoirs of Anne Eliza Young who was purported to be Brigham Young's nineteenth wife(I say purported because it appears that he had quite a few and she was probably not really #19 but may have been somewhere around #25) to weave a tale that will captivate you almost from the first page. The story merges the life of Anne Eliza in the past with that of Jordan Scott in the present. Anne Eliza's fame/infamy sprang from her decision to divorce her husband in so public a manner for what she saw as his abandoment and mistreatment of her. She took him to court and wrote a book to discredit him and his polygamous practices. Obviously by so doing she became persona non grata with her former church members and their families. She fought an extensive battle with Brigham Young both in the court of law and in the court of public opinion. Her battle would prove to be instrumental in dismantling polygamy as a major belief system of the Mormon church.

    The parallel and present day story that is told alongside Anne Eliza's is that of Jordan Scott whose mother is herself a 19th wife and accused of shooting her husband to death. Years before, Jordan had been abandoned on the side of the road because his father had caught him holding hands with his step sister and the prophet considered this behavior to be inappropriate(by the way he was 14 when this happened). It is important to mention that Jordan's family was considered fundamentalist and not part of the Latter Day Saints(Mormons). His community was headed by a prophet and almost every family was polygamist or soon to be. When Jordan returns to help his mother after her arrest, he is now 20 and still carries with him the scars of his earlier abandonment and ostracism.

    Both stories are told side by side with Anne Eliza's story occupying most of the book. Though I found the modern day story interesting, I was not blown away by it. The real genuis is the way in which the author used Anne Eliza's two books, church documents, newspaper reports and people who may have known her to create a portrait of a woman who must be admired for her spunk. I imagine that women's rights were not what they are today and getting a divorce during those times for a woman must have been a difficult venture. With that in mind, I cannot begin to comprehend the guts it must have taken her to get such a public divorce from the leader of a powerful church. Her books, lectures and later works where all driven by what she saw as the unbridled male lust that was manifested in polygamy and the women and children held hostage to this practice.

    In my opinion, this is a very well written book that gives you a look into the early history of the Mormon church. Obviously you need to do your own research to find out what is factual and what is fiction. Anne Eliza though very informative on the practices of her church at the time was also a biased author whose anger toward Brigham Young clouded some of her writing. I would highly recommend this book. ...more info
  • More than a book on polygamy
    This book captures the depth and complexity of lives touched by polygamy, but doesn't stop there. Instead of settling for a one-note critique of a controversial religious practice, the author's use of multiple narratives also engages the reader in issues of feminism, homophobia, poverty, and those who struggle with lives lived on the margins of society. ...more info
  • Nice mix of history and fiction
    I really enjoyed the balance of history and fiction in this book. It is an enjoyable way to learn about how different cultures are through stories. The only thing that I didn't like was that it seemed to drag at the end....more info
  • Interesting In Parts
    At first I had difficulty keeping track of which story I was reading, when it switched back and forth between present day and history. As I got further into the book that was less of a distraction. Both stories are quite fascinating. Though I think it was a little longer than it needed to be. ...more info
  • Just ok.
    While the book was ok, it was nothing beyond that. I am usually the type who picks up a book and finishes it in a couple days.... but this one took me MUCH longer because it just did not engage me. ...more info
  • The 19th Wife by David Eberschoff
    The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff is one of the best books I have ever read. It is about the Firsts, which is based on the original radical beliefs of the Mormon Church. The original Mormon Church was started by Prophet Joseph Smith. Smith said that God commanded polygamy.

    The beginning of the book tells you all about the early history of the church. It is based on a family who was forced into polygamy. Ann Eliza is a daughter of the Webb family. It is heartbreaking to read about her mother's pain when she can hear her husband in the next room having sex with his new wife.

    Ebershoff spins the story about Jordan Smith, a young man in present time, and his sidekick Elektra, an abandoned pit bull, in a way that immediately captivates you. Jordan was 14 when his mother dumped him in the desert because it was God's will. He had been caught holding hands with Queenie, the young daughter of one of Jordan's father's wives. Jordan's father found her mother on a website called [...].

    Seeds of doubt began to sprout in Jordan's mind about the teachings of the Prophet when Queenie told him it was a lie that after the war England had been reduced to a ruined people living in huts and sheds. This is just one of the things that brainwashing tapes from the Prophet told the children in the community. Jordan had already refused to slaughter sheep and dogs as part of the children's training on how to teach them to fight against their enemies.

    At fourteen Jordan had to use any means to survive, including prostitution. He says that he has a doll-like face, as certain perverts described him. He has a high voice and blond good looks. He is admittedly gay and is working at construction, no longer relying on prostitution for his survival.

    Jordan is with a buddy in the library where he spends a lot of time on the web. He sees a photo of his mother's face and is stunned to read that she murdered his father. She is in jail pending trial and he wants to visit her. He had no doubt that it is true. Who wouldn't line up to murder the man?

    Jordan sees his mother. She is aghast that he would believe that she killed her husband, as she was totally devoted to him. Jordan doesn't believe her and is nursing wounds over his betrayal and abandonment by his mother. She says that it was God's will. She prayed that God would bring him to her and her prayers have been answered. She wants Jordan to rescue her.

    Jordan starts to investigate the murder of his father by sneaking into Mesadale, the community where he was raised. He develops a friendship with another young lost Mormon boy, Johnny, who is only 12 years old, and a romantic relationship with another Mormon guy, Tom who is his age. It is poignant and endearing. Tom is obviously more committed than Jordan, as he is ready to settle down and feels paternal feelings toward Johnny.

    The history of Ann Eliza Young, a wife of Brigham Young, is intertwined into Jordan's story. Ann Eliza was coerced into marriage with Brigham after a divorce from another man with whom she had two sons. She was reduced to poverty because Brigham was married to eighteen other women. Actually she was called the 19th wife, but he really had more wives than that. He couldn't keep track of the number. He told her he could no longer support her and left her to fend for herself and her two sons. She takes boarders into her home and learns that the other Christian religions actually made more sense than what she grew up with. When she was deathly ill, it was these Christians who loved and coaxed her back to health.

    Ironically she learned that not everybody lived in the perversion and slavery that the Prophet's church lived with because Brigham had abandoned her. The other men who followed the Prophet took as many wives as they wanted. Brigham himself fell in love with Ann Eliza at her birth. He coerced Ann Eliza's brother to convince her to marry him by paying off the debt that he owed to Brigham. The brother was in debt because Brigham had loaned him money and set him up to lose it.

    Ann Eliza divorces Brigham and goes to Washington to fight against polygamy and the Mormon Church. She loses relationships with many of her family members but remains committed and strong to her cause.

    The history of Ann Eliza's family and how they joined the Mormon church, Joseph Smith, and others entangled in the saga is mesmerizing. I highly recommend this book. David Ebershoff 's writing is brilliant, talented and witty.

    ...more info
  • Skillful blending of the past and the present
    The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff is actually two stories in one. It begins with the story of Ann Eliza Young, the 19th wife of the Brigham Young, Prophet of the Latter Day Saints. As a member of the Church of Latter Day Saints during the 1800's, she found herself in a polygamous marriage. She was never happy in the marriage, but tolerated it until Brigham refused to financially support her. Forced to take in Gentile boarders, she saw what life was like on "the outside." She divorced Brigham and went on a speaking tour denouncing the Latter Day Saints and the practice of plural marriage. This part of the book is so well written, I had to keep reminding myself that, while based on fact, it is a work of fiction.

    The second story in The 19th Wife is the story of a present day 19th wife, who is a member of the "Firsts," who are loosely based on The Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints, or FLDS, that was so prominent in the news this summer. BeckyLyn finds herself in jail, accused of murdering her husband. Her son Jordan, who has been excommunicated from the church, reads about it in the newspaper and visits her in jail. Convinced of her innocence, he searches for the truth.

    This book grabbed me from the first page. David Ebershoff does a fantastic job of switching between the two stories. He includes an author's note at the back of the book detailing his research and telling of his inspiration in writing it. I thought The 19th Wife was a fantastic read - it is a wonderful blend of historical fiction and mystery....more info
  • `Historians speak of the unintended consequences of planned events.'
    I enjoyed this novel: the intertwining of a contemporary mystery with a version of events from the nineteenth century. Mr Ebershoff has combined the two stories well and has constructed some plausible situations, motivations and secondary characters in the process.

    In the present, Jordan has returned to Utah six years after being expelled from his family and religious community. His father has been shot dead, and Jordan's mother - one of his many `wives' is suspected of the crime. In the 19th century, Ann Eliza Young, the 19th wife of Brigham Young, tells her story of plural marriage - as child, wife and parent - and her escape in order to lead a campaign to end polygamy in the United States.

    Two centuries, two wives, two similar religious communities. What makes this work so well is that there is enough plausibility, enough foundation in fact to enable the mystery to work. On one level, Mr Ebershoff provides some fascinating insights into human nature: there would not be leaders without followers; and the safety of the known is often more comfortable than the uncertainty of the unknown to make this novel work so well.

    The answer to the mystery is simple and, in its own peculiar way, a wonderful affirmation of love. Read this novel as a mystery with an historical component. Plural marriage, polygamy, celestial marriage - however it is labelled - is certainly a component. But it is not the only point of reference.

    `The story is neither representative nor unusual. It is simply that: one woman's story.'

    Jennifer Cameron-Smith

    ...more info
  • A great read
    This was the kind of book that you could get lost in. It's about polygamy and the formation of the sect that believes in plural marriage and how it got started. The author has a very interesting technique of going back and forth between a present day mystery and historical fiction. My book club read it and with the exception of one person, we all loved it. I really enjoyed the author's style of writing and will look for other books by him....more info
  • Very captivating.
    The book held me captive for an entire day. It is well written and very direct in the practice of polygemy....more info
  • Very Interesting Book
    Mr. Ebershoff has sure done his research. With skillful acumen, the writer paints a picture providing the "Patient Reader: with a detailed (albeit fictional), historical account of the Mormon Church and a keen insight into the consequences of plural marriage. Great Job, Dude!!! ...more info
  • good book
    just finished reading this book. a real eye opener on some old, old facts.
    definitely will recommend....more info
  • a bit confusing at first, but worth it if you're interested in the subject matter
    Another ARC -- this one took me a very, very long time to get through. I read about a third of the way through it, got bored with the set-up, and it took me about two months to pick it up again. This was strange to me, as the Firsts are one of those things I enjoy investigating. I'm getting ahead of myself, though.

    The 19th Wife explores the story of Ann Eliza Young, a 19th-century woman whose apostasy from the Mormon faith eventually led to her writing a memoir exposing the truths (as she saw them) of polygamy, or plural marriage. She had been married to Brigham Young, one of the big names of the faith, so naturally this caused an uproar. Ann Eliza comes across as mostly likeable in this novel, and her narrative is easy enough to follow.

    Her story is told and intertwined with a present-day murder mystery, when a Fundamentalist husband is shot and killed. The voice for this story is a boy named Jordan -- the murder victim is his father, and the main suspect in the shooting is his mother, one of the victim's many wives. As the book progresses, Jordan gets closer to the truth. This storyline does wrap up satisfactorily, albeit a little too quickly for my tastes.

    Mixed in with these two storylines are a few other minor ones; this wouldn't be noteworthy except that each one employs a different narrative voice. It all works together eventually, but until you get a good half-way into the novel, it can be a bit confusing, especially with all the different names you have to keep track of.

    All in all The 19th Wife is a pretty solid read, although I'd venture to say the plodding set-up (where the history of Mormonism is concerned, especially) will turn off anyone who does not already have in interest in the subject matter. Calling a narrative voice into question, as Ebershoff does, more or less, late in the novel, is an interesting spin -- I was thinking it would be interesting to reread the book with that in mind, but honestly am not THAT interested in it. That pretty much sums up the book, actually: by the end, I was thinking, "Huh, this would be a good candidate for a reread, with all this new knowledge I've gained in mind." But I'm just not compelled enough to go for it.

    It was a solid novel, and enjoyable once it finished setting the scene. (I did rip through the last half in two days, after all.) I'm glad I finished it. It's not a keeper, but it was worthwhile....more info
  • Great Read
    I enjoyed this book and had trouble putting it down. Although I know a little about the Mormon faith, I was not aware of many of the historical events that shaped it. There are historical writings in the book that were enlightening. As a woman, it was an interesting novel to read especially about the protocol of wives and the way that it's fully accepted that polygamy is a duty of faith. The insight that the wives and children suffer from this type of marriage was sad. It was fully acceptable to give up a young daughter in marriage to an older man who already had many wives. It's difficult to imagine that after generations of living this way they were so sheltered they did not think there was any other way too live. I have already recommended it to my sister in law. ...more info
  • One Sin, Many Voices
    "In the one year since I renounced my Mormon faith, and set out to tell the nation the truth about American polygamy, many people have wondered why I ever agreed to become a plural wife. When I tell them my father has five wives and I was raised to believe plural marriage is the will of God, these sincere people often ask, "But Mrs. Young - how could you believe such a claim?" Faith, I tell them, is a mystery, elusive to many, and never easy to explain."

    Thus begins "The 19th Wife", a novel that followed quickly on the heels of one of the more odd news stories ever to be broken and that made the front page of every major publication in the US. From the author of the controversial novel "The Danish Girl" comes another story that defies skepticism as well as criticism, a novel that tells two stories simultaneously - one is of Ann Eliza Young, Brigham Young's notorious 19th wife and renowned author and lecturer on the "conjugal chains" of polygamy. The other is of Jordan Scott, a man barely in his twenties and surviving on his wits after his wrongful excommunication from the FLDS community several years before. Both stories serve to illustrate the ill effects of the institution of plural marriage in the past and the present and the first-person narrative utilizes many different voices, including those of Ann Eliza's family as well as a present-day college student pursuing a degree at BYU.

    The book's copyright page contains a disclaimer which reads:

    "This is a work of historical fiction. Apart from the well-known actual people, events, and locales that figure in the narrative, all names, characters, places and incidents are the products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to current events or locales, or to living persons, is entirely coincidental."

    He could've fooled me. The historical portion of Ebershoff's narrative is so utterly convincing that one would actually believe they were reading authentic accounts. The line between fiction and reality blurs quickly and the reader will feel compelled to fact-check Ebershoff's story out of insupressible curiosity. His modern-day parable involving a murder is equally intriguing, Jordan a street-wise character who, though banished from the life he once knew, delves deeper into the chaos of his former faith and the community that surrounds it out of love for his mother, determined beyond reason to exhonerate her from his father's brutal slaying. The reader will find themselves being tightly wound into Jordan's sleuthing whilst being emotionally courted by the moving (if sometimes biased) story of Ann Eliza's struggle to comprehend and eventually escape an archaic and somewhat sexist society.

    The real Ann Eliza Young did indeed publish an autobiography in 1876 entitled "Wife No. 19" which became a best-seller in the wake of her headlining divorce (her story even appeared in the New York Times). A revised edition was released in 1908 but interest in the story had since diminished; it was not until April of 2008 that interest was renewed when the YFZ Ranch (a 1700 acre community owned by the FLDS church) in Texas was raided and 462 children were moved into temporary custody of the state under the suspicion that they were being physically and sexually abused. Though these accusations were later found to be without merit, it took but one glimpse from the American media into the ultra-conservative and somewhat questionable lifestyle of Mormon fundamentalists to raise doubts, questions and criticisms once again.

    Ebershoff is impressively thorough on the psychological buildup of both stories, setting the stage with a turn of events that leads to both of their opposing views on polygamy, a way of life that many came to view as an aberration against man and God. With both Ann Eliza and Jordan bearing the bruises that polygamy inflicted upon their childhoods, it is a brilliant cause-and-effect that serves to color their feelings early on towards their individual Prophets and the doctrines of the LDS church. Most telling is a quote from a BYU student named Kelly Lee, a statement that serves to sum up the heartbreak that many of the cast-out children of Ebershoff's story feel:

    "I finally understand what Ann Eliza was so outraged about. It's the kids. These men, in their search for an unlimited supply of women, they end up destroying a lot of kids. You know what makes me angriest? That someone has put them through this in the name of God. That's the saddest part, these kids come out and they've been robbed of everything. Their childhoods, their families, but, worst of all, they've been robbed of God. And most of them never find him again." (pg. 397)

    The narrative twists with grace and purpose from beginning to end, building to an exciting climax with Jordan's revelatory stumble upon the truth behind his father's murder and a poignant ending that demonstrates the power - and the mystery - of religious faith.

    Bottom line: Ebershoff is a gripping storyteller and anyone who is willing to take a chance on the extensive story behind "The 19th Wife" will be richly rewarded by his ingenious method of self-expression through a blight on modern-day religion and American history. ...more info
  • Pick The 19th Wife for your BookClub!
    "Bookclubs should select The 19th Wife as their next selection. David Ebershoff has written his best book yet. The 19th Wife explodes with details of how polygamy exists today and what the devastating effects are on women and especially children. A must read for everyone."...more info
  • Read With Care
    Readers who pay attention to The 19th Wife will be rewarded with an intriguing pair of tales told by multiple voices that reveals a fascinating world. The two stories are of two "19th" wives of Mormon polygamists separated by more than a century of titillating innuendo about the illegal, disreputable, but still-active practice. The book is fiction, but it is studded with history. It's not a quick and easy read, but it's worth the time and effort to follow the stories to their conclusions.

    Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds: A Novel of Scandal, Love and Death in the Congo...more info
  • A Disappointment
    I'm in the minority here, but I was disappointed in the novel. I guess I was mislead by the cover, thinking that the Ann Eliza Young story would take a back seat to the fictionalized story of Jordan and his hunt for his father's killer and mother's proof of innocence. I was wrong. The Ann Eliza story basically took center stage. It was very fascinating and I truly enjoyed it. However, so much emphasis was put on Ann Eliza that I honestly forgot characters and occurances in Jordan's story. This may have been because I only read about a chapter a night; but still, no book without Cliff Notes should be that hard to keep up with.

    I am glad I read it, since I find the Mormon aspect of American History fascinating. But I just don't agree with my fellow reviewers has been as great a book as they....more info
  • Creative Historical and Contemporary Writing
    The author presents a creative look at historical Mormonism and contemporary Mormon cultism. The two genres are interspersed with some other varieties such as fictional letters, accounts and even a wikipedia article.

    The story of Ann Eliza, Brigham Young's "19th wife," incorporates the history of Mormonism from Missouri to Utah. It shines a light on the dynamics of the religion especially on the plural wife tenet of the religion's roots. This part of the story is interesting and well written.

    The contemporary account of Jordan a young man who has been expelled from the "Firsts" of Mesadale, AZ is equally well written and intriguing. It shows the current dynamics of the Mormon cult that still practices plural wives. This is a cult mirroring the Fundamentalist Mormon cult that Warren Jeffs heads and has been in the news recently.

    Both story lines reveal the realities of plural marriage and the controlling male-dominated natures of the religions. The method of reading two stories concurrently can be frustrating at times as readers may want to stay on one tale when the writer moves to the other. It also prevents more in-depth development of each story. This is an entertaining and stimulating way to read history and to learn about the modern offshoots of Mormonism. There is little at all about contemporary mainstream Mormonmism.

    If you have read Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer, then this format is very similar and the topic is similar with the exception that this is contemporary fiction and creative historical fiction; whereas Under the Banner of Heaven is non-fiction.
    ...more info
  • Fiction, fact, and lots of negative opinion
    The style of the book was interesting, weaving two different stories together. As usual when reading such a book, I find myself wanting to read only one story at a time.

    We are led to believe that some of the book is actually true, however, most of it appears to be fiction. I am not a LDS, have not ever met one as far as I know, but I was still offended for them. I felt the author went out of his way to make the founders, and other LDS men, appear to be sexual predators. Not sure this is true--maybe it is, or maybe he just has an agenda to denigrate the Mormon church.

    Anyway, I don't recommend this book. ...more info
  • Interesting but goes on forever!
    If you're interested in Morman history and the history of polygamy then this is book for you. It is a mixture of truth and just enough fiction to keep you reading. I like the topic, but it went on and on and on. The book was heavy and poorly put together....more info
  • An enjoyable read, especially for lovers of historical fiction...
    The 19th Wife is an intriguing, insightful, captivating and educational example of historical fiction at its finest. The novel weaves together the stories of two women, both of whom are their husband's 19th wife in differing examples of pleural/celestial/polygamous marrages and cultures.

    Perhaps just as interesting as the storylines themselves is the manner in which the stories are told from varying viewpoints/perspectives: the gay narrator Jordan who was excommunicated from the Firsts of Mesadale, Utah and whose mother is awaiting trial for allegedly killing her husband; Ann Eliza, Mormon Prophet Brigham Young's 19th wife (although her real "number" is debatable) who led the crusade to rid the Mormon church of its polygamous ways; a research student's Masters thesis on the evolution of the Mormon Church and its connection to celestial marriage; varying news articles and wikipedia entries, court documents, secret jail diaries, etc. While some may not prefer this method of storytelling, I found it greatly enhanced my understanding, appreciation and love of this book as a whole. It felt like I had personal access to historical documents and research, as opposed to just learning about their lives from the traditional narrational perspective.

    Without going into too much detail, I would HIGHLY recommend this book for those who enjoy historical fiction, those interested in different religions/cultures, those with little or no knowledge about the Mormons or Firsts (like myself- it was really insightful!), bookclubs, and anyone taking religious studies, womens studies or history courses. ...more info
  • Meanwhile, in another novel.,,
    Gay coming of age stories have been so overdone in recent years that there are even successful parodies of them now, but Jordan Scott has one that sets the rest on its ear. He was conceived and born in Mesadale, an iron curtained combination of The Truman Show, Jonestown, nd Afghanistan where sexuality of any kind is simultaneously completely suppressed and omnipresent, satanic and heavenly. It's a scenic hellhole where the inhabitants grow like bonsais deliberately warped to the whims of a corrupt Prophet, the only arguably good thing about it being that it's plyboard walls and billion year old mesas shelter its people from what they believe is the Great Evil of the outside.
    Fourteen is an age when most gay youth even in the most tolerant of environments are, at most, just beginning to process and admit their sexual identity. It's hard to conceive of a community less gay friendly than Jordan's lifelong home, where boys are taught to cut the throats of their pet dogs in training for the apocalypse that will come when the evil outside world slithers like serpents into the sands of their barren Eden and where they are taught that lustful thoughts can cause pregnancy and God has destroyed most of Europe for their sin, thus Jordan's sexual confusion must have already been immense by the time when, at 14, he is literally driven into the desert and left by a roadside for an exaggerated offense, one of the "lost boys of polygamy".
    Barred re-entry into what he has been taught is Paradise and literally damned to the buffetings of Satan by the Voice of God Himself (for this is how he perceived the Prophet), Jordan was soon not cutting the throats of the unfaithful but is literally down on his knees before their most depraved members. The same naked body he has been taught from the cradle to regard as wicked he barters for money and food, even having to perform the most debased of acts. (Ebershoff tells us- twice, just in case we didn't get it the first time- that at his nadir the underaged Jordan agreed to be 'fisted' by a john for $50.) At the same time as this sexual and spiritual nightmare, all things that were certain in the world- the Will of God, his mother's love, his place in an enormous family and among the Lord's Elect- are lost in a satanic whirlwind. Had any of us fallen through a hole in the Earth and awoken in a land filled with licentious centaurs and carnivorous buffaloes it would be no more bizarre, terrifying, and utterly defiant of reason or sense than what Jordan experiences at 14.

    Six years later Jordan is fine and dandy and living in Pasadena. He's living hand-to-mouth but so are most people, and he lives in a tiny apartment with a beat up fourth hand vehicle just like most self-supporting 20 year olds. All things considered his life is pretty good: he's no longer a prostitute, realizes that the teachings of his childhood were bogus, he's well adjusted, out and proud and not going to take any crap about his sexuality from anyone, and has a great dog. The demons of his past- both the metaphorical and the real ones he once and not that long ago believed in- are, if not exorcised altogether, at least bound and gagged and not causing him problems. Oh, he has bitterness and anger and a sense of missing closure about his past- but then who doesn't? He is on the whole an emotionally healthy and pleasant person, not to mention a beautiful rosy chinked Nordic featured twink.

    So how did Jordan go from a dangerously inbred abandoned youth peddling his body to ephebophilic perverts somewhere in the desert to a studio apartment with a wonderful dog and colorful friends in Pasadena in just six years time? I'll tell you... well... maybe later.
    Meanwhile in another novel, there's a 60 page fictionalized first person account latter day (no pun intended) account of Brigham Young's friend-turned-umpteenth-father-in-law lusting for his Liverpudlian landlady in the 1850s. You'll find this interspliced between constant lengthy excerpts (all of them longer than Jordan's story segments) from Ebershoff's reimagining of Ann Eliza Webb Young's WIFE NO. 19 (a very real book, though the real book is rather staid)in which among other things you can't understand the plot without knowing you learn that St. Louis fiddles can lead to prostitution. (In the real WIFE NO. 19, Ann Eliza Young was so far from open about the sexual aspects of her experiences that it's not even certain whether her marriage to Brigham Young was consummated, and from the known facts a good argument could be made either way; Ebershoff at least answers this question.)

    Well, a few chapters later let's drop back in on Jordan. His father has been murdered and his mother (his father's 19th wife/1st cousin/niece- presumably there are some halves in there) is in prison as the sole suspect. Jordan is off to save her and in so doing... well, really just to save her I guess. He soon hooks up(platonically) with Johnny, a fellow castout from Eden who has his own baggage (the length of time it takes Jordan to realize that the desperate homeless adolescent he runs into near Mesadale is in fact- shocker- another "lost boy" explains much about why Jordan isn't a professional investigator). With their own Scooby Van and even their own Scooby they're off to solve the case.
    The plot thickens, and then disappears altogether for a hundred or so pages.

    Meanwhile in another novel, we're treated to seemingly never ending scores of pages of purple prose, all of them written generations before Jordan was born, all (like Jordan's section) written in the first person, and no two of them seeming to deviate a participle or sentence-long adjective-phrase in writing style from the other 19th century characters. (Jordan, who in addition to being a magic self healer psychologically, is blessedly concise and lucid.) These "Purple Prose of Deseret" sections include a self loathing bigamist who in a swampy plodding florid deluge of first person stream-of-consciousness describes in more detail than anyone could need the desert sunsets (this book must have a record for the most desert sunset descriptions per chapter- seems desert sunsets in Utah are red and majestic, and that Ebershoff's thesaurus has more synonyms for red and majestic than you'd ever guess existed) and descriptions of his little girl crying and the complexity of his emotions where his wives are concerned, and all of this in an excerpt from a LEGAL DEPOSITION IN HIS SISTER'S DIVORCE TRIAL! (Judge Judy would have sent the deponent to a firing squad for contempt of court before he got to the FIRST description of a cat sleeping peacefully on his as he reached a major life decision- and there are two! Thank the gods that the deponent didn't get fisted during a desert sunset or another 140 pages might have been tacked on.)

    So back to Jordan. Now he has a boyfriend, sort of. And there's stuff about his dad's murder. And pretty much everywhere he goes he coincidentally runs into other refugees, all of southern Utah and northern Arizona apparently hiring only from people kicked out of Mesadale. So just how did Jordan grow into such a well adjusted person when there are literally serial killers have come from happier and less destructive youths? Well, if Ebershoff knows, he ain't tellin', just take for granted that he did.

    Meanwhile in another novel that has nothing to do with him, doesn't even take place in the same city or family, and is set 130 years before... another endless purple flood. Read it though, for it's all eventually going to converge with the modern day plotline... isn't it?

    Before going further I should perhaps admit my own bias: I am a (non-Mormon) historian who has studied Brigham Young, including his marriages and divorces, in depth and I've read pretty much every major and most minor books that have come out in the past generation on modern day polygamy. It's a subject somewhere between an interest and an obsession to me. That said, I also agree with the sentiments of Lorenzo Dee in this novel: the historian and the memoirist and the novelist all tell truths, or at least the good ones do. I even believe that at it's best historical fiction can be a fantastic accomplice to "real" history: the census can tell you a person's state of birth, a novelist can tell you their state of mind. Brigham Young is one of the most enigmatic and complex characters in U.S. history and the biographies of him range from unabashed hagiography to equally virulent indictments and both types make excellent cases, thus illogical as it seems I think only a novel really COULD portray the "Mormon Moses" objectively, perhaps doing for him what Gore Vidal did with Aaron Burr or Mary Renault with Alexander the Great.

    That said, one shouldn't take too many liberties with history. Making Lincoln the child of a runaway mulatto slave or giving Alexander the Great a Buddhist transvestite (even though both are conceivably possible) for example would be taking far too serious liberties, yet neither of these are any more far fetched or ridiculous than Ebershoff's reimagining of Ann Eliza Young and her family (all of whom were real people with well documented lives at the time of the divorce trial). The worst part is not that Ebershoff has changed the historical facts (not just details but major integral parts of) their lives but that with his drastic changes he actually makes them far less interesting as characters!

    A Few Examples:

    The real Eliza Churchill Webb (Ann Eliza's mother) was a 15 year old foster child in upstate New York who'd never traveled more than a few miles from home when she converted to Mormonism and not the world weary riverboat Magdalene with illegitimate child in tow from the book. (If she HAD been a former prostitute it is hard to imagine her daughter would have known, let alone revealed, it in her memoir and if any part of the book were to come from a sealed Archive it should have been this.) Her life could and should have been used to cantilever that of her daughter- polygamy from the aspect of one who was there at its creation and grew old in it versus the daughter who grew up with it as the norm and came to question it at the same age her mother came to accept it. Also, what is known of her shows her to have been every bit as devout and longsuffering as Ebershoff's depiction, which makes her ultimate apostasy and siding with her daughter against the church all the more dramatic, and yet this true sequence of events Ebershoff barely mentions though it should have been among the book's dramatic highlights.

    Eliza Webb's husband/Ann Eliza's father, Chauncey, in addition to the completely fabricated back story (he was not an orphan) and a plodding sealed archive exposition on said Liverpudlian horniness that has absolutely nothing to do with Jordan Scott, died in an epic irony that Ebershoff either did not uncover in his research or, worse, chose to ignore. This old first generation convert who ultimately had at least 8 wives and fathered dozens of children in devotion and in hopes of being a desert patriarch like Israel instead spent his last years as a monogamist (he outlived all but Lydia, his first plural wife), and in their "latter days" who took care of this ancient couple? It was not one of their many children together or Chauncey's tribe sired on other women, but Lydia's spinster niece. The ironic implications of this- that an unmarried woman in a land of harems was their caregiver rather than the enormous polygamy allowed- are as interesting and worthy of working into a novel on Ann Eliza (it's one of the single greatest indictments of "the Principle") as it is completely ignored.

    And then the most simultaneously maligned and whitewashed of all: Ann Eliza's brother Gilbert. Far from being the bastard baby born for a boat ticket he was actually Chauncey G. Webb, Jr., and he was far more zealous than his father or his brothers (his brother Aaron from the novel, incidentally, did not exist). The very real Gilbert not only was suspected of participation in the Mountain Meadows Massacre (an event vital to understanding the history of the church yet tossed aside like an "everyone knows what happened there") but was actually under investigation for this at the time of his sister's divorce! This would have been not only easy to work into the novel but EXTREMELY relevant and poignant- in his completely unbelievable deposition in which he stops just short of giving his ginger snaps recipe and describing how day lilies make him pensive he actually talks about his zealousness and reservations of conscience...and yet Mountain Meadows is apparently deemed unimportant even though it was at the total crux of the matter!
    And how's this as a real event easily worked into a novel: after his own apostasy the real Gilbert Webb along with some of his many sons was suspected of staging one of the greatest train robberies in western history- the theft of $28,000 in gold from an army payroll no less- and using the money to found a polygamist compound in Mexico when the LDS banned polygamy the following year! Gilbert died on this commune as a very old man- never came back to America- now THAT'S an interesting story. Instead Ebershoff invents a far less interesting fictional brother and for the real one mentions said cat falling asleep on said chest but not the mass murder of dozens of settlers in which the person allegedly took part.
    Meanwhile Jordan's playing house and getting closer to finding the murderer and stuff.

    Ebershoff's best moments in the book, and he does have some good moments, is his prison diary of Young- it's actually the only one of the 19th century sections that I wished had gone on longer.
    But instead I found myself wishing the Ann Eliza/Brigham part had been completely cut.

    Jordan Scott is a unique character who could more than easily fill a novel of this length with only bits and pieces of exposition on church history and dogma ever needed (perhaps clips from Kelly's dissertation if you must, though frankly I don't see why Ann Eliza was necessary at all). Again, how did Jordan- the inbred scion of a hellish zion cast into the wilderness become so well adjusted? Is this Roland figure he mentions but who's never seen a buck-fuddy Jordan's own age or is he a middle aged queenly father-figure or what exactly? Did Jordan ever finish high school and how did he learn to drive or get the van and why did he move to Pasadena? Does he have any ambitions- anything he wants to be? What insight into life in general has his acid-trip nightmare of a past brought him? What are his feelings for Johnny (clearly it's a platonic protectiveness but strangely there's not a whole lot of evidence in the novel that he even particularly cares about the kid). He has dozens of brothers and sisters- NONE of them are of interest to him?
    Mesadale is also an excellent place for a novel. The anthropology of such a place, based on actual places (Colorado City of course, though Ebershoff clearly works in aspects of the LeBaron and Kingston clans as well) would seem as alien as Arrakis/Dune/Desert Planet and yet it's real. Had he created that world and the character of Jordan and ignored Ann Eliza he'd have had a fantastic novel. Had he concentrated on Ann Eliza's story and ignored Jordan, he could have had a shot at one as well- though far more a long shot. The two together though go together like onions and ice cream. This is a pity, for Ebershoff has talent when he uses some restraint and this could have been a great novel instead of a mediocre one.
    My Ultimate grade: Modern plotline C+, 19th Century Plotline D-, cumulative C-.

    ...more info
  • A Disturbing Look Into the Realities of Polygomy
    While I enjoyed what this book had to say about the horrors of polygamy and its effect on women, I did not enjoy the style of writing, and feel that this book could have been better served either by a more talented writer or a ruthless editor. The storylines never came together for me, and the characters failed to impress. Overall, just an okay book....more info
  • Polygamy and the history of the Mormon church
    I had heard good things about this book, but even so, I wasn't sure it was going to be a book I would enjoy. I'm glad I gave it a try. The book opens with the death of a present-day polygamist and the arrest of one of his plural wives for the murder. When their estranged son hears the news, he feels compelled to return home to investigate. This modern crime story (which, by itself, is far too thin to sustain a novel) is intercut with a lengthy retelling of Ann Eliza Young's story, which follows the story of the early history of the Mormon Church. While this part of the book does drag to a crawl in places, it is a fascinating and detailed look at the trials of the early Later-Day Saints and their struggles to find a place to live and practice their religion in peace. Along the way we learn a great deal about polygamy, as practiced by the early Mormons, and how, in spite of the official renunciation of the practice by the Church, it continues to be practiced by splinter groups. Without this extensive background, the modern-day portions of the story would lose much of its impact and mystery. The two stories dovetail together quite nicely (be sure to pay attention to the names of the characters to see just how related they really are). This book provides a glimpse into the beliefs of a people whose practices are hard for many to understand or appreciate and exposes the abuses that seem to thrive in this culture.

    [This review is based on an Advanced Reader's Edition]...more info
  • An Interesting Read
    I am sure I am going to get attacked for this, but I find polygamy fascinating. I'm not saying I condone it any way, but I find it a very compelling subject. The whole way of life is just so foreign to me. I don't believe in it or condone it. I swear. I am not saying it's cool, or great or amazing... I'm just saying it makes for an interesting read.

    The 19th Wife is really two stories in one. It tells the tale of Ann Eliza Young, one of Bringham Young's wives who eventually left the Firsts and went on to protest polygamy and Bringham Young himself. Tied in with this first story is the plight of Jordan, a modern day gay man who was excommunicated from the Firsts (a lost boy) who returns back to the community to solve the mystery of his father's death. His mother (one 20+ wives) is accused of the crime.

    Like I said, I find their way of living fascinating.. in the same way I would find a car crash fascinating. It's ugly and you want to look away, but can't.

    I guess I would give this book a 4 out of 5. It was good.It did have a nice little surprise at the end that I never really saw coming. If you are looking for a novel about a subject not often written about it, give it a try....more info
  • plodding in parts
    Although there is plenty of information regarding the Mormons in "The 19th Wife", I found it to be plodding in parts, and too much like a textbook. However, anyone wanting to know about the genesis of the Mormon faith will find this book most informative....more info
  • Scooby-Doo meets Fundamentalist Mormons
    "The 19th Wife" is a 500 page treatment for a Scooby-Doo episode with a history of Mormon polygamy as backstory - two gay men running around the Utah desert (in a van!) with their respective dogs and a precocious 12 year old side-kick solving a fundamentalist Mormon murder mystery in a cutesy way. At the end of it all, I was fully expecting the villain to grumble: " I would have gotten away with it if it weren't for you meddling kids." There's even a "tie `em up and gag them with a sock-in-the-mouth" scene. This is writing at its laziest and most unimaginative, where every character we encounter is conveniently vital to the progression of the weak plot, where the dialogue is utterly unbelievable, where one character meets another character, and we are promptly treated to three pages of pure plot exposition. This is what passes as literature in 2008? All this by an editor at Random House and a lecturer in creative writing at Columbia University, nonetheless. Without a shadow of a doubt, Mr. Ebershoff has written this novel with an eye to Hollywood.

    The historical narratives centered around the early Mormon church, Ann Eliza Young, her family, and Brigham Young are compelling. But is it necessary to read fictionalized versions of historical events to understand that polygamy had (and continues to have) devastating moral and spiritual repercussions on men and women alike? Try as I may, I could not understand how the historical narratives aided our understanding of the present-day Scooby-Doo murder mystery narrative.

    For an infinitely better read on the subject of murder and modern day fundamentalist Mormons, consider J. Krakauer's masterly "Under the Banner of Heaven".
    ...more info
  • Simply the best!
    The 19th Wife is a real page turner. Very intriguing. The modern day portion of the book really keeps you guessing right up to the end.

    Read this book, you won't be sorry....more info


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