The 19th Wife
By David Ebershoff
Random House, August 5, 2008
I must admit, I went into this book with little to no knowledge of the Church of Latter-Day Saints, polygamy, or the more fundamentalist sects that have branched off from the Church. Well, I only know the more stereotypical things about LDS. I have also never read a book by David Ebershoff, although I will admit that I have his book Pasadena, which has been faltering on my TBR shelf for more years than I care to admit. After reading The 19th Wife, it will probably be brought forward multiple spaces to be read soon.
I did not know what to expect as I opened the book. I had not heard much about it, but when I got the offer to read it for Mr. Ebershoff’s blog tour and saw the beautiful cover, I snapped it up. And I am so glad I did.
This ambitious novel strives to tell many stories all at once. There are several threads being juggled here, but Ebershoff does an admirable job of keeping everything straight and wrapping it up neatly by the end. The main two stories are parallel accounts of polygamy. One takes place as the LDS church was just getting started and one takes place in the modern era. The first describes Brigham Young’s 19th Wife, Ann Eliza Young, and her expulsion from the church and subsequent crusade to abolish polygamy. The second is about another 19th wife and is a modern-day murder mystery set in a polygamist cult in Utah.
Ann Eliza Young’s diary if fascinating, not only as a look at the beginnings of Mormonism, but also as a look at our early pioneer days. Through her diary we witness the religious tyranny and the rationalization of the act of “celestial marriage” that befell the women of Mormonism. Not to mention the complacency the women showed when yielding to the men of the church. Young’s diary, along with other such testimonials come together to paint an unforgettable portrait of these times.
Jordan Scott is shocked to find an article in the paper detailing his mother’s apparent murder of his father. Excommunicated years earlier after being found holding his sister’s hand, he hasn’t seen or heard from her at all. Despite this, he heads back to talk to her and find out what really happened. Upon hearing her state that she did not kill him, he decides to do a little detective work and find the truth. He risks his life in investigating the cult and prove his mother’s innocence.
As good as these two stories are, I had one small problem with them; Ann Eliza’s sections were much more interesting that Jordan Scott’s. I liked his character well enough, but I found the sections in the past to be much more fascinating. Despite Ebershoff’s slight failure to create a balance between the two sections, I found the characters to more than make up for it. This is a very interesting novel, one I highly recommend.
Read an excerpt HERE
David Ebershoff’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS:
Wednesday, Oct. 15th: Maw Books
Friday, Oct. 17th: Reading, ‘Riting, and Retirement
Monday, Oct. 20th: She Is Too Fond Of Books
Tuesday, Oct. 21st: Age 30 – A Year in Books
Thursday, Oct. 23rd: A High and Hidden Place
Monday, Oct. 27th: It’s All About Books
Tuesday, Oct. 28th: Musings of a Bookish Kitty
Thursday, Oct. 30th: Books on the Brain
Monday, Nov. 3rd: The Cottage Nest
Tuesday, Nov. 4th: B&B ex libris
Wednesday, Nov. 5th: Anniegirl1138
Thursday, Nov. 6th: The Tome Traveller
Friday, Nov. 7th: Educating Petunia
Monday, Nov. 10th: The Literate Housewife
Wednesday, Nov. 12th: Diary of an Eccentric
Friday, Nov. 14th: Book Chase