The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff is a fascinating fictional account of both the origins of plural marriage in the Mormon faith and a present-day incarnation of this practice among fundamentalist Mormons. The novel is divided into two stories: the first of Brigham Young’s nineteenth wife, Ann Eliza Young (written in the form of a memoir) and the second of a contemporary nineteenth wife who has been arrested for the murder of her husband (written from the point of view of her son). However, this novel is actually more complex than that as it also contains diary excerpts, newspaper clippings, academic papers, letters, emails and more. In less capable hands, this might have made for a disjointed and unwieldy mess, but Ebershoff masterfully weaves all these pieces together to create an extraordinary tale, keeping each voice distinct and completely believable. Although the two stories don’t connect in any traditional sense, Eliza’s story provides backdrop and context for the modern one, as well as being an amazing piece of historical reconstruction. (As other reviewers have noted, I had to keep reminding myself that this was fiction!) My only criticism is that the resolution of the modern mystery is a little too pat, but otherwise I have to agree with one of the characters who says: “All speculation and imagination,* yet so true, I know, so true” (p. 496). I feel like Ebershoff has really captured the essence of the realities he writes about.
This was one of my favourite books in 2008.
To read other reviews of this book, visit these blogs:
Age 30+... A Lifetime of Books • A High and Hidden Place • anniegirl1138 • A Writer’s Pen • Bibliographing • Books on the Brain • Caribousmom • Farm Lane Books • Firefly’s Book Blog • It’s All About Books • Literary License • Maw Books • Presenting Lenore • Reading and Ruminations • Reading, Writing and Retirement • Sadie-Jean’s Book Blog • She Is Too Fond of Books • S. Krishna’s Books • The Novel Word • The Printed Page
To read guest posts by the author, visit these blogs:
Diary of an Eccentric • It’s All About Books • Reading, Writing and Retirement
To read interviews with the author, visit these blogs:
Maw Book Blog • Musings of a Bookish Kitty • She Is Too Fond of Books • Wendi’s Book Corner
You can read Wife No. 19 by Ann Eliza Young online.
Thank you to the author and Random House for sending me this book to review.
This is the first book I review for the LibraryThing Author Challenge.
*And lots of research, obviously!