27 Nov 2009


THE 19TH WIFE by David Ebershoff.

For the first time in six years, Jordan returns from California to Utah, to visit his mother - in jail. As a young boy he was expelled from his family's secretive polygamous Mormon sect. Now his father has been found shot dead in front of his computer, and one of his many wives - Jordan's mother - is accused of the crime.

Over a century earlier, Ann Eliza Young, nineteenth wife of Brigham Young, second Prophet of the Mormon Church, tells the sensational story of how she battled for her freedom from her powerful husband, to lead a crusade to end polygamy in the United States. Bold, shocking and gripping, The 19th Wife expertly weaves together these two narratives in an enthralling epic of love, family, murder and faith.

.... From the back cover.

First Sentence: 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.

Memorable Moment: It's funny, they call us the lost boys when we get kicked out, but really, we were lost the day we were born.

Almost two books for the price of one though why the author chose to write as he did has me puzzled. Either one of the two elements - the story of Ann Young or the story of Jordan and his mother -would have been superb reading in their own right but, put together, I'm not too sure it worked, so what should have been a book I rated four, possibly even five, out of five, I decided to rate as a three.

Jumping from the story of Ann to the much less lengthy story of Jordan, there were huge gaps in the narrative, so-much-so that the 'lesser' story often seemed to be neglected and the thread lost. That said, I quickly worked out the key to the mystery though as to 'who done it'? That came as a surprise, if not a good one as it was as if the author had run out of steam, realised his book was in danger of becoming too long and had opted for any old ending.

As for the parts of the story concerning Ann Young. This was especially fascinating and I learnt such a lot about the Mormons of the eighteen hundreds. However, as the author informs us "The 19th Wife follows Ann Eliza's basic biographical arc as she describes it, although often I fill in where she skips and I skip where she digresses. I continue past her conclusion and reinterpret where her point of view limits an understanding of her life and times. I also spend time on members of her family, about whom she has little meaningful to say." All very well and it could be argued that it's a sign of a good writer that fact and fiction were so seamless but I'm afraid I couldn't help but almost constantly wonder which bits were factual and which bits a figment of the author's imagination which was very distracting.

Reading this review back, it does seem as if I have little that is good to say about The 19th Wife but, as I say, it was fascinating and informative - the complex relationships between the characters well worth the reading.

MY RATING: 3 out of a possible 5.


Anonymous said...

I love a book I can learn from!

Kelly said...

Another one of those topics I don't really know that much about.

Vivienne said...

I can't wait to read this one. I bought it last Christmas and I still haven't read it.

TheLittleFlower said...

Hey I posted something about my Thailand trip,but no pictures. I will some soon though. :)

Melissa (My World) said...

This does sound as there is a lot to learn of the way it was and all the work that went into getting it set up to not be aloud. Sounds like a lot of informative info. here in the book.