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.
As Ann Eliza's narrative intertwines with that of Jordan's search, listeners are pulled deeper into the mysteries of love and faith.
©2008 David Ebershoff; (P)2008 Random House, Inc.
This audio version is well-handled by using more than one performer, as there are more than one narrative strands here. There is the modern strand: a lively amateur sleuth mystery about a young man who had once been tossed out of a polygamous community, but who goes back to exonerate his mother, who is falsely accused of murder. And there is the historical strand: the real-life story of Ann Eliza Young, the 19th polygamous wife of Brigham Young, who wrote a notorious memoir and gave lectures that had a great deal to do with Mormonism's eventual decision to discontinue polygamy. I had actually purchased this book expecting two fictional narratives interwoven with each other. What I found instead was a modern fictional narrative interwoven with a mostly factual historical narrative. Even though the story of Ann Eliza Young is fascinating, it is nevertheless a problem that Ebershoff makes such extensive use of what is after all the writing of someone else. And as for the modern fictional narrative, while it begins well, it resolves in a way I found unsatisfactory. Even so, the novel as a whole is worth a listen because of how perceptive it is about the problems of polygamy and the questions it raises about the two original prophets of Mormonism, namely Joseph Smith and Brigham Young. These two men accomplished amazing things (especially Young), but they also introduced the odious practice of polygamy into their faith, a self-serving decision which very nearly resulted in the destruction of that same faith.
Well at first I got a little lost when the novel switched views. Eventually I caught on and it went much more smoothly. What you have to realize is this is not only written in two different perspectives, though it only tells two stories.
First is the authors fictional story about a boy who was kicked out of a modern day polygamous society that returns when his mother is accused of killing his father.
Next is the story of the historical Anne Eliza Young (and her family) who was the 19th (well more like 50th) wife of the mormon prophet Brigham Young. Her story is told through her memoir as well as other documents such as her brothers journal, a students thesis paper, documents from the mormon church's records, etc.
This book is pretty good with great historical facts. I feel like I know a lot more about the roots of the mormon church and polygamy. Be forewarned though it is pretty sad and just as you get into one story it will switch perspectives on you!
How good was this? Really, really good! Ebershoff is a wonderful writer who absolutely gets inside the head of a wide range of characters. If you're looking for a romping fast read, this might not be for you, but the interweaving of the two stories--one from the early days of the LDS, one in the present, involving a splinter group of the LDS--is well done and keeps you coming back to see what develops. The historical detail is beautiful, and Ebershoff balances religious tolerance and sound moral judgment admirably well.
I loved this book! My favorite genre is historical fiction and I did not know a lot about the history of the Mormon religion before I read (listened to) this book. It makes me want to learn more. I have been telling everyone to read (or listen to) it. One of my friends started reading it and said she was having a hard time switching between the different narrators. I told her that listening to it probably helped with that because the different voices eliminate confusion when the narrator changes.
A facsinating listen--the narrators did a great job and intertwined the 2 19th wives very well. I learned a great deal about polygamy, the Firsts and B. Young, as well as the treatment of women in that time period. The psychological impact of children of polygamy was very enlightening. It is a long listen, but worth it. Very interesting material for discussion for book clubs.
Seldom have I been so moved by a book that I have yelled at it out loud, but that is precisely what I found myself doing—on more than one occasion—as I read The 19th Wife. This novel reads much more like nonfiction than fiction, and tells the story of the beginnings of the Mormon church and how polygamy figures prominently in that history. The author does a good job of bringing that history into the present day by juxtaposing the true story of Brigham Young’s 19th wife with the fictional account of a current-day offshoot of Mormonism. This Warren Jeffs-like cult still practices polygamy, brainwashing its adherents into thinking that only through plural marriage can they be assured of a place in heaven.
I knew before I picked it up that this book would not be a flattering portrayal of Mormonism, but I was still unprepared for the completely misogynistic nature of the origins of this belief system. It was fascinating to read the real-life story of Ann Eliza Young and realize everything she had to go through, until she finally spoke to members of Congress and President Grant, resulting in anti-polygamy laws being passed. There were passages in the book, both in the historical section and in the present-day section, that convinced me these women are literally slaves who are completely subjugated to the will of their “prophet/husband.” Those were the sections that made me actually shout out loud, I simply could not hold back my disgust. That the US government still allows polygamous cults to exist today in the name of freedom of religion is unconscionable.
I listened to this as an audio book read by several different actors. I thought they were all quite good, except the man who read the part of the present-day protagonist, Jordan. His voice was simply not very expressive, and when he was reading dialog between two people it was hard tell which person was talking. Still, I would recommend this audio book to anyone, particularly to those interested in the place of women in society.
The interwoven stories of a present-day FLDS tragedy (not Fundamentalist LDS in this novel, but First LDS) and historical retelling of the Smith and Young stories were interesting enough to make this a three-day "read" for me. I didn't have any trouble keeping the past and present stories separate, and did find they were closely related to each other by theme, so not an odd coupling. I'd recommend it to those of you who are watching HBO's Big Love (insert smile here).
This book tells two tales - a modern story of polygamy and mystery, and a view into the early days of polygamy as the Morman Church was first founded. The historical story is lightened by the modern one which has more twists of mystery and danger. I found it to be style that worked. There are 4 readers for this book, which also makes it quite interesting. It is long and involved, but if the subject intrigues you, you will be drawn in.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The narration was terrific by using 4 different narrators and the story, actually 2 stories, were fascinating. There were times it went a little slow, but nothing that would make me put it town. I'm forever fascinated as to why women do what they do for men and why they let men degrade and debase them. And I always cheer when some woman wakes up to the situation and does something about it! I'm lucky I wasn't born into a culture that degrades women, I would have never lived past the age of 6!
Extremely slow. I had to put it down many times and read something else before listenng to more of the book. This is definitely not worth 2 credits.
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