Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Book Review: The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff

The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Historical Fiction/Mystery
Length: 514 pages
Rating:

Faith, I tell them, is a mystery, elusive to many, and never easy to explain.

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.


Review:
The 19th Wife is a fascinating look at polygamy in The United States. I knew next to nothing about this topic before I read the book, and I’m glad I picked it up. It’s an important topic that’s gotten a good bit of coverage, and it’s engrossing to read about.

The two stories written about worked well together in the novel. There was an interesting combination of letters, essays, and memoirs that kept the writing interesting. The modern-day mystery story seemed a little forced, though—the characters acted like detectives in a cliché crime novel to advance the plot. I didn’t really like the ending to that storyline, either. Everything was wrapped up a little too neatly.

The historical information was exciting to read, but also terrifying. It starts with the formation of the Mormon Church and goes through the time when polygamy is denounced by that same church. Seeing the power of the prophet of the church and the motivations of the top officials was scary, especially when considering how many people once accepted their word as law. It’s fascinating, though, and I’m glad I understand more about the topic than I did before.

The 19th Wife is a peek into a different kind of world, and it captured me from the very beginning. This is the book for anyone who enjoys historical fiction or simply wants to learn more about a hot topic of today.

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