Saturday, March 30, 2013

Review: The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff

The 19th Wife
Author: David Ebershoff
Published: August 5, 2008
Genre: fiction
eBook: approx. 514 pages
Source: borrowed from the library

My Rating: 3 stars

Synopsis (from GoodReads): Sweeping and lyrical, spellbinding and unforgettable, David Ebershoff’sThe 19th Wife combines epic historical fiction with a modern murder mystery to create a brilliant novel of literary suspense. 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 a family’s polygamous history is revealed, including how a young woman became a plural wife.
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 and faith.

My Thoughts: I've been wanting to read this book for sometime, interested in how an author could combine two books, two different stories into one, and create a cohesive and interesting read. David Ebershoff opens his book with a young man who was kicked out of his home as a teenager for holding hands with a girl. While this may not seem radical to you, the young man, named Jordan, lives in a compound of the First Latter-Day Saints, the people who still practice polygamy out in the desert of Utah. There are so many rules that govern this group of people that it's hard for an outsider to understand and difficult for an insider to explain. Ebershoff attempts to do so in this book by giving you a history of how the FLDS came to be. They are associated with the Mormon church, but few people understand how it came to be. What follows is a long history of how the church was founded, their pilgrammage across the country to settle in current-day Salt Lake City, and the book written by Brigham Young's 19th wife (Young was the second prophet for the church and grew the church in a number of ways). 
This is a hard book to categorize because it defies many genres and writing styles. It's a mystery in terms of Jordan trying to help his mother, who is in jail for allegedly killing her husband. There is Jordan's struggle with the church and the prophet and the people who allow them to continue this religion. There is the back story of the Mormon church, with chapters alternating between present day and the past, then the chapters told from Ann Eliza Young's point of view. There's a lot going on in this novel and it can be hard to keep up with, but it is riveting to read about. Ebershoff could have used a bot of editing in this book because it was so long and there were some parts that I felt didn't really add to Jordan's story or the storyline of the Mormon church.
I don't know if I would ever want to read another novel by Eberhoff, but this novel was very interesting to read. Ann Eliza Young was a revolutionary in her day in her attempt to outlaw polygamy in the United States and doing her lecture circuit to spread her story. While this book is a work of fiction, it was still amazing to read about the founding of the church and the early years of it's existence.

1 comment:

  1. I've had this book on my TBR shelf for some time now. I always manage to find something else that I just have to read. Thanks for the review, it helped me remember why I wanted it in the first place.