The 19th Wife: A Novel
by David Ebershoff
I'm really into the TV show, Big Love, so when mdm139 mentioned she was reading this book about some characters in polygamous relationships, it sounded like something I wanted very much to read. I couldn't finish it in time for petrini1's book club, but I couldn't make it on that day anyway, so it's just as well I took my time with it and enjoyed it.
The book goes back and forth between a 19th wife in "present day" and one in the past.
In the present day version, we get Jordan, whose mother was an 19th wife and accused of murdering his father. As I started earreading, I knew at once I was going to like Jordan. He's realistic, street smart, and has a good heart. I loved getting to know him and the characters he encounters (a boy who, like him, was ejected from the "firsts"), Jordan's wonderful dog, and a young man working at a hotel that soon becomes Jordan's boyfriend. Jordan attempts to investigate, to find out what really happened and to find out if his mother (who kicked him out all those years ago) is really guilty of murder. The modern day sect was fascinating and a bit terrifying as well. And I desperately wanted him to get to the bottom of the mystery, but it was so engaging and interesting I didn't want it to end!
In the past, we have the story of Ann Eliza Young, the 19th husband of Brigham Young, one of the Mormon Church's first prophets. We get the story of her mother, then her parents, and then her. We see her family as it spans several generations. And with that we see the history of the Mormon Church in a very realistic, intimate way. I don't know how much of the passages in this book were actual accounts from Ann Eliza Young's "The 19th Wife" or how much was fictionalized. I don't know how much of the correspondence was word-for-word accurate (friends tell me it tells in the book, but the audio didn't have that info). But I had no trouble believing every word of it, especially because the point is it's from a certain point of view. Ann Eliza Young and others repeatedly explain that there's no ultimate truth--there's only events as we see them. It's up to us to figure out what they mean, what they were. There are SO many sides to any story--so much bad and even some good. I think these stories showed a wealth of truths, emotions, and opinions.
No matter what, both stories were powerful and entertaining. Sometimes they didn't work well together. Sometimes I wanted one to continue longer or switch over sooner. But, in all, I enjoyed them BOTH for different reasons. Together they made one compelling book. I couldn't stop listening to it.