Jan 30, 11
Read from January 17 to 29, 2011
The Lonely Polygamist, at first glance, seems a lot like the HBO show Big Love, but it’s vastly more endearing and entertaining. I was intrigued by the general setup: how can Golden Richards, a man with 4 wives and 30 children ever feel lonely? The answer is, because when you family is that large and dysfunctional, with a house too small to accommodate an army, not enough bathrooms, financial pressure, demands from all his wives, Golden feels there is not enough space for himself. Brady Udall’s book is a slow burn. It takes a while for us to learn about Golden’s extended family, his father, and his origins in Tennessee. But once you see the predicament that Golden is in, with his construction crew building a Nevada whorehouse (Pussycat Manor 2) for a dirty businessman named Ted Leo, and falling in love with a woman from Guatemala, you’ll be hooked on these zany characters.
Udall shifts character point of view from chapter to chapter. The other main characters are Trish, Golden’s fourth wife, who lives in her own condo with her daughter. Trish is lonely, isolated, never spending enough time with Golden due to his trips to Nevada and sharing with the other three wives. She is also horny and desperate to conceive another kid. The other three wives: Beverly, Nola, and Rose, appear to be more stereotypical Mormon ladies. As time goes on, Udall peels back more layers on all of them to reveal more surprises.
If all this weren’t good enough, one of Golden’s sons is named Rusty, who is in the throes of puberty and also suffering from not enough love or attention. Rusty is a chubby, goofy, fearless kid who rebels against the stern Mormon authority of Mom #1, Beverly. It wasn’t until I read Rusty’s chapter that I realized this book was set in the mid 1970s, as Rusty fantasizes about his perfect 12th birthday party at a roller disco. Rusty gets into hordes of trouble after he meets June Haymaker, a handyman with a hobby in making explosives.
There is a lot of humor in this novel, but you will also feel empathy for these deprived wives and kids. There are also moments of great sadness. All in all it is a beautiful and memorable novel.