Monday, June 21, 2010

The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff

The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff
Historical Fiction

The 19th Wife flips between a modern day murder mystery within a polygamous family and 1875 with Ann Eliza, the 19th wife of Brigham Young. In present day, an ex-communicated member of the church Jordan comes back to Utah after his mother is accused of killing his father. Jordan is a member of the First Latter-Day Saints and was kicked out after found holding the hands of one of his many step-sisters from his large family. Jordan is hesitant to come back to a place he's put behind himself but he wants to find the truth.

At the same time, the story follows Ann Eliza Young, the 19th wife of Brigham Young who divorces Brigham and turns her religion upside down. Her story is told from many different perspectives including her own autobiography, her dad's story, letters from her son, essays from scholars, and others. Ann Eliza argues that no woman could possibly want to be in a plural marriage if given the choice and not told that their salvation depends on it. Brigham Young states that he has been told that plural marriage will ensure your salvation and the (in my opinion) ridiculous argument that with plural marriage, the sin of adultery is eliminated. Of course it is.

This book gives an interesting look into the First Latter-Day Saints; both historically and present day. I found it easier to connect with Jordan than Ann Eliza because Ann Eliza felt more distant, maybe because she was trying to protect herself? I felt like there were a lot of unnecessary characters in the novel though. Jordan picks up a runaway who is also an ex-communicated Firsts member who really doesn't add much to the story. Furthermore, despite the entire book being quite engaging, I was disappointed in the ending and found myself skimming through it.

First Line: "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."


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