Thursday, November 6, 2008

Review: The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff

In his new novel, David Ebershoff paints the history of the Mormon religion through the eyes of Ann Eliza Young, the so-called nineteenth wife of Brigham Young. Ann Eliza's parents were there when Joseph Smith was forming what would become the Mormon church and she grew up within it. When she was grown she was pursued by Brigham Young and eventually married him against her better judgement.

Several years later she was basically abandoned by her husband. Though she was called wife number nineteen, in reality Brigham Young likely had fifty or more wives. Of course, his time was finite and he was a busy man. He was unable (and unwilling) to spend time with all of them. So Ann Eliza famously broke with the church, left Brigham, Utah and her family. She wrote a well known book in 1874 in which she told her story and described to the world the problems that plural marriages causes. She took her story to Washington and convinced President Grant to pass laws that put pressure on the Morman church to end the practice of polygamy.

Woven in between Ann Eliza's story is the narrative of twenty year old Jordan Scott. Jordan's story highlights how the children of some of today's splinter polygamists, known as the Firsts, continue to suffer. There are cases of young men in their early teens ejected from the group, dumped on the highway in the middle of the night with no money or possessions. The reduction of the young men leaves the young women for the older men in the group to take as an additional wife. Through Jordan's eyes we see the intolerance, isolation and loneliness of some of the women and children involved.

This was an absorbing, fascinating book. I loved the historical sections and the fact that it was based on a true story. The author did a wonderful job of showing the formation of the religion from the beginning, using the characters to give the reader an inside look.

The 19th Wife is published by Random House. ISBN 978-1-4000-6397-0

Thank you to TLC Book Tours for allowing me to participate in this tour! Upcoming stops are:

Friday, Nov. 7th: Educating Petunia
Monday, Nov. 10th: The Literate Housewife
Wednesday, Nov. 12th: Diary of an Eccentric
Friday, Nov. 14th: Book Chase

Order The 19th Wife from Amazon


Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed this book, too, but I had to keep reminding myself that it was a work of fiction. To me, that is a testament to how well written it is.

Anna said...

Great review! I'm reading it right now and loving it. Ebershoff is an amazing storyteller. Thanks for the link!

Diary of an Eccentric

Teddy Rose said...

Wonderful review! I so want to read this book!

Michele said...

I have been wanting to read this book...looks like I'm going to have to get cracking on that. Nice review!

Anonymous said...

I'm with bermudaonion - this is a great work of fiction, written so well that it could be taken for a true history.

David Ebershoff will be back on my blog to answer questions about *The 19th Wife*.

Literary Feline said...

Great review! I enjoyed this one quite a bit as well.

tashiana said...

i gotta say this looks pretty delicious- a glimpse into the mormon world
i never knew that young men could be abandoned so older ones could have their choice of girls ---creepy

Thoughts from an Evil Overlord

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New Hampshire, United States
Bibliophile, Anglophile, Traveller... I have been an avid reader all of my life, since I took the Dr. Seuss Dictionary away from my Mom when I was less than a year old because I wanted to read it myself. In college, where I earned my degree in English Literature, I was often asked "What are you going to do with it?" Now I finally have the answer to that question!!! Being employed as a Flight Attendant for twenty years has given me a lot of life experience and, better still, a lot of time to read. I love to travel for fun, too.