Saturday, December 3, 2011

The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff

Book Details
The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff
Paperback, 544 Pages
2009, Random House Trade Paperbacks
ISBN: 0812974158

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 her family’s polygamous history is revealed, including how both she and her mother became plural wives. Yet 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, family, and faith.

I truly enjoyed The 19th Wife. It had a fantastic mix of factual history, historical fiction and present day mystery that will delight newcomers to fiction with polygamous themes. The book explains the origins of the Latter Day Saints, how polygamy came to be included in the Firsts religious practices and how it has progressed in modern times without ever crossing the line into reading like a textbook or condemning the past.

The 19th Wife is a long book packed with information. It reads easily, however, taking the reader through the past and into a murder mystery present. This mixing of past and present, fact and fiction, is perfectly done. It educates factually, while entertaining with both a fictitious look at the past and a modern murder that's quite twisty and unexpected.

What I'm most impressed with is how the author handled the subject matter. Delving deeply into polygamy, its roots and its psychological effect on the families who practice it, David Ebershoff manages to keep the tone balanced. You could never infer his personal opinion on the topic, which makes the book that much more meaningful.

The 19th Wife is well researched, well written and completely engrossing. This is definitely the book to check out if you've ever been interested in reading fiction about religiously promoted polygamy.


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