Christina's Reviews > The 19th Wife

The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff
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Jul 03, 2016

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bookshelves: audiobooks
Read from May 16 to June 10, 2016

So at first I was super excited about this because I thought the historical material was nonfiction. This misunderstanding seems kind of dumb since it says "a novel" right there on the cover, but in my defense Ann Eliza Young *did* actually write a memoir/exposé called Wife no. 19. And the modern-day murder mystery sections of David Ebershoff's The 19th Wife *are* told in alternation with a fake Ann Eliza memoir. Which confuses me even more now that I've peeked at Ann Eliza's real Wife no. 19 and seen how similar it is to Ebershoff's fictional "historical" material in The 19th Wife. Both the real and the fiction have one thing in common though: there's not much flattering material about Brigham Young.

But anyway, I'm still riveted to the historical stuff, whether it's absolutely true or not. In comparison, the modern day portions of the text fall a little flat. It's clear that Ebershoff did a ton of research to create historical fiction so believable it fooled me into thinking it was nonfiction. So why didn't he do some research into modern Mormon services for the modern day portion? When the characters went to a Sacrament Meeting for misfits in Las Vegas, I got so excited about the prospect of Ebershoff depicting an LDS service created and attended by people who have been or have felt pushed out of the mainstream church. But then they had communion (with grape juice!) and a sermon. Dude, just talk to ONE real modern Mormon. Our services are pretty different from other Christian churches. This is a tiny thing to harp on, but I was so disappointed that Ebershoff missed an opportunity to have, like, a heartwarming testimony meeting for people who love the church but can't be in it.

Overall it was an interesting read that has stuck with me, but I can't think of too many people I would recommend it to: non-mormons who take it at face value will be shocked by what a messed up world Mormons created, and Mormons will be super offended by the scathing, partially-factual view of Brigham Young and other early church leaders. David Ebershoff's setup has so much potential for good literature and storytelling, but he only gets about 70% there.
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Reading Progress

05/16 marked as: to-read
05/16 marked as: currently-reading 2 comments
07/03 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-4 of 4) (4 new)

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message 1: by Ingrid Lola (new)

Ingrid Lola don't ever watch the Lifetime movie that was based on this book. It's horrible.


Christina Haha! I don't think I've ever seen a Lifetime movie that wasn't horrible. Well, actually, I think I've seen some that sorta go all the way past horrible into the realm of "so bad it's good."
Have you read this? I was going to recommend it to you.


message 3: by Ingrid Lola (new)

Ingrid Lola I know what you mean about Lifetime movies being so bad they're good ... but this wasn't one of those. It was just painful. I actually haven't read this book, though I owned it at one point. I was just too put off by the movie to want to read the book, sadly. It's completely in that "polygamy is evil" camp as opposed to the "polygamy is strange and interesting - let's explore it, and maybe come to the conclusion that it is bad" camp that I much prefer.

Also, there was this whole part with Brigham Young and one of his wives that made him seem like this totally creepy, nasty man. Brigham is certainly not my favorite person in the world but I think it was unfair and inaccurate to portray him the way they did.

So yeah. I actually hope you read this, though, because I'm curious to see how the book compares to the movie and what you think of it.


Christina Yeah, I can understand about the movie ruining it for you. I only know about this book from a review from a friend on here (not someone I actually know in real life) whose review was VERY critical of the church. I don't think he knew much before reading this, and now he knows the weirdest thing about us. But he also made me curious about the book. I'm not really in the market for more things to read, but I hope I'll get to read it at some point.


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