Thursday, July 15, 2010

The 19th Wife

The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff Historical Fiction

This story is about two 19th wives. The first is Ann Eliza Young , the 19th wife of Brigham Young. Ann Eliza divorced Brigham in the late 1800s and started a crusade against polygamous marriages. The story is told of how both Ann and her mother were forced into their plural marriages. Her father also tells a bit of his own story and her brothers are also included. This is all told from historical accounts of the time. An interesting tidbit is the story of a present day writer trying to get ahold of these accounts. The Latter Day Saints (LDS) church is very reluctant to re-visit such a troubled time in their history.

The second story is in the present time. In a commune of Firsts , a sect that still believes in polygamy, Jason's father is killed and his mother is accused of the murder. Jason was kicked out of the commune at age 14 for holding hands with a girl. Jason returns to try and discover what really happened and to try and clear his mother of the crime.

This book points out the crimes involved in polygamy, the violence behind trying to maintain one's way of life, the sexual abuse and the abuse and neglect the children must put up with. I was intrigued with the history of the LDS but horrified by the total neglect of the woman's and children's human rights. There were a number of extraneous story lines that lead nowhere and were not of any consequence in the story. Jason's love interest and the runaway being but two of them. I still found the story very interesting though.

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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