December 28, 2011

The 19th Wife

The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff
2008 Random House Audio
Readers: Arthur Morey, Daniel Passer, Kimberly Farr and Rebecca Lowman
Finished on 11/29/11
Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

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

Sweeping and lyrical, spellbinding and unforgettable, David Ebershoff’s The 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.

This is one of those occasions in which I went into the reading of a book completely cold. I had no idea what the story was about; never even read the back cover. I had it on my shelf (I’m not even sure where or when I got it), but came upon the audio version (online) through my local library. I decided to give it a try and was spellbound; all four readers were superb and the story was captivating. Initially, I preferred the present-day narrative over that of Ann Eliza’s story, but as the novel progressed, I found myself looking forward to the shift back to her tale.

Now that I’ve enjoyed the audio version of the book, I’m looking forward to reading my printed copy sometime in the future. I learned a great deal about the Mormon Church and its history, but would like a chance to go back and read it, concentrating more on the historical details and less on the fictitious character, Jordan Scott, and the mystery of his father’s murder.

I’m also looking forward to reading the author’s earlier novel, Pasadena, which I’ve owned for close to a decade!

Go here to listen to David Ebershoff describe The 19th Wife.

Click here to visit the author’s website.

Final thoughts: A thought-provoking story that would make for a great book club selection.

Books to add to my TBR list:

Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer

The Mormon War: Zion and the Missouri Extermination Order of 1838 by Brandon G. Kinney


  1. I really enjoyed this book, too, but did find some of Ann Eliza's story to be a little slow, so I understand why you enjoyed the modern day tale more.

  2. I've been wanting to,read this one! I love how you went into it blind and really
    Iked it. Im not sure if I could prevent myself from I reading the back info first! :)

  3. I really liked this book too, even though so much of the story infuriated me! But hah, wait till you read Under the Banner of Heaven! :--)

  4. Yep, I wanna read this one. I've seen it re-emerging in the blogosphere here lately (not sure why), and I have a renewed interest in Mormonism and polygamy since I've taken to watching (addicted to!) Sister Wives on TLC. Ugg, I hate to admit it, but it's true.

  5. I think I may have a copy of this too. Now I am curious and just may have to dig it out.

  6. I like the way Andi phrased it: "re-emerging into the blogosphere." This was on my list for a long time, but I've never gotten around to it, so thanks for the reminder!

  7. My book club had a very lively discussion of Under the Banner of Heaven! Have had The 19th Wife on my list for ages...

  8. This one interests me. I lived in Salt Lake City for a time, and had some association with groups that aided Mormon women who were trying to leave polygamous or bad marriages. (Yes, Virginia, there are many polygamous households in SLC)

    I have very strong (and some strongly negative) feelings about the Mormon faith, even though (or perhaps because) some of my own family was/is Mormon. As a result, I make it a point to look for things that might help to round out my view a bit - historically as well as theologically. This looks like a good one.

  9. I didn't care for the contemporary story line, so ultimately I didn't rate it very high.

  10. Kathy - I enjoyed the modern story, but about halfway through the book, I really became interested in Ann Eliza's story. What a life!

    Staci - I used to read the back covers and jacket blurbs of all the books I bought, but now, thanks to the blogging community, I rarely ever read the publisher's blurbs. I may not go into a book completely blind, but I like to be somewhat surprised and usually base my decision to read something almost completely on a friend's recommendation.

    Rhapsody - Yes, quite a bit of the story made me very angry, too. Hmmm, now I'm really curious about Under the Banner of Heaven. Another friend mentioned how much she enjoyed it, so I guess I'll have to get a copy. Thanks!

    Andi - Uh-oh. I better not get hooked on another tv series. Rod always rolls his eyes whenever we get one in the mail from Netflix. We've been having "House" marathons almost every weekend night. Once we get caught on that, I want to start in on Justified and Breaking Bad.

    Beth - It was surprisingly good. Very informative, yet not day. I love a good work of historical fiction. Enjoy!

    Jenclair - I know how that goes! I have dozens and dozens of books that were big hits when they first came out. Time to start reading from my stacks!

    JoAnn - I'll bet this and Under the Banner of Heaven would generate very lively debates in a book club! Makes me wish I still belonged to a f2f group.

    Linda - My stepsister and her former husband were Mormons, so I learned a tiny bit about the Mormon faith from them. But not enough to really understand the historical facts. I also had a good friend in high school who was raised in the Mormon faith and when I saw him at our 30th high school reunion, I was surprised that he still had never had a drink of alcohol or any type of soda (pop)! Not one sip. Amazing.

    Joy - I liked bits & pieces of the contemporary plot, but my enjoyment was mainly in the Ann Eliza story.


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