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The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff
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's review
Nov 06, 2008

really liked it
Read in October, 2008

In his new novel, David Ebershoff paints the history of the Mormon religion through the eyes of Ann Eliza Young, the so-called nineteenth wife of Brigham Young. Ann Eliza's parents were there when Joseph Smith was forming what would become the Mormon church and she grew up within it. When she was grown she was pursued by Brigham Young and eventually married him against her better judgement.

Several years later she was basically abandoned by her husband. Though she was called wife number nineteen, in reality Brigham Young likely had fifty or more wives. Of course, his time was finite and he was a busy man. He was unable (and unwilling) to spend time with all of them. So Ann Eliza famously broke with the church, left Brigham, Utah and her family. She wrote a well known book in 1874 in which she told her story and described to the world the problems that plural marriages causes. She took her story to Washington and convinced President Grant to pass laws that put pressure on the Morman church to end the practice of polygamy.

Woven in between Ann Eliza's story is the narrative of twenty year old Jordan Scott. Jordan's story highlights how the children of some of today's splinter polygamists, known as the Firsts, continue to suffer. There are cases of young men in their early teens ejected from the group, dumped on the highway in the middle of the night with no money or possessions. The reduction of the young men leaves the young women for the older men in the group to take as an additional wife. Through Jordan's eyes we see the intolerance, isolation and loneliness of some of the women and children involved.

This was an absorbing, fascinating book. I loved the historical sections and the fact that it was based on a true story. The author did a wonderful job of showing the formation of the religion from the beginning, using the characters to give the reader an inside look.
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Epee I'm definitely going to put this on my to-read list. It sounds fascinating.

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