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The 19th Wife
The 19th Wife
Author: David Ebershoff
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 powerf...  more »
ISBN-13: 9781400063970
ISBN-10: 1400063973
Publication Date: 8/5/2008
Pages: 507
Rating:
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
 129

3.5 stars, based on 129 ratings
Publisher: Random House
Book Type: Hardcover
Other Versions: Paperback, Audio CD
Members Wishing: 0
Reviews: Member | Amazon | Write a Review

Top Member Book Reviews

reviewed The 19th Wife on + 715 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 13
I found this to be a real eye-opener! Coming from a Mormon background (I grew up in Utah), this book was very relevant for me. I thought Ebershoff did a great job in telling this story that includes the roots of polygamy in the Mormon Church along with a modern day murder mystery in a polygamist cult and how the two stories connect with each other. I tend to agree that the story would have perhaps been better if only the story of Ann Eliza Young was told, but I did get engrossed in the modern-day story as well. Reading the story of the Mormon beginnings and Brigham Young was definitely not the same stories I was taught in Mormon Sunday school. Especially the baser aspects of why Brigham and Joseph Smith entered into polygamous relationships and some of the other historical aspects such as the "hand-cart tragedy." This is a work of fiction and it is hard to separate the fact from the fiction, however, I think the author tried to accurately portray the events as much as possible.

The story within the modern-day cult reminded me a lot of the HBO series "Big Love." I would recommend this series highly. This book also piqued my interest in reading more about Ann Eliza Young -- I would like to read her book "Wife No. 19" at some point. I didn't realize she had such an impact on the Mormon Church's renouncement of polygamy. Overall a high recommendation for this book.
reviewed The 19th Wife on + 9 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 11
I'm one of the rare people that didn't enjoy this book at all. I didn't even bother finishing it, placing it back on PBS almost a week after receiving it. I felt Ebershoff was a gruff author, writing at a 6th grade level and in a very choppy manner. While there was definitely a story to be told here, it merited refined words written in more eloquent ways. Neiter refinement nor eloquence can be found in this book. Save yourself the time and look for a better book to read.
reviewed The 19th Wife on + 158 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 7
Ebershoff manages to straddle multiple stories, centuries and leading characters without leaving the reader behind. All voices feel authentic and it is easy to let go and be carried away by the quirky circumstances of a world I could never understand. While it is not out and out historical fact, I am that much closer to understanding this totally foreign religion without fear and just a little self-indulgent anger. It is, after all, a novel.

A superb read through and through!
reviewed The 19th Wife on + 30 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 5
This book kept me spell bound to the end. I loved the historical fiction sections because there were so many different ways of moving the story along. Ebershoff uses many different styles of writing including memoires, newspaper articles, diary entries, etc. It kept me guessing until the end of how the two stories (one historical, the other modern) would come together in the end. I couldn't put the book down.
reviewed The 19th Wife on + 32 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 3
The simultaneous story of two 19th wives: Ann Eliza Young, married to Brigham Young, left Utah, divorced him after five years, went on the lecture circuit talking about the truth of polygamy, and wrote a memoir. She was instrumental in ending polygamy in LDS. Meanwhile, in the now, Jordan is surfing the web in California and sees his mother BeckyLyn on the front page of the local paper where he grew up in Utah. His father is dead and his mother has been charged, they too have a celestial marriage. Jordan, who was dumped on the side of a highway as a 14 year old, and excommunicated for holding his sister's hand, plays private eye because his mother has no one else. The historical fiction and contemporary parts of the novel are buoyed by various documents: IMs Jordan's dad was having when he was killed, flyers advertising Ann Eliza's lectures and performances as an actress, a wikipedia entry, history papers written by a BYU student.

What Ann Eliza and Jordan both say, show and write repeatedly is how very much polygamy warps, harms and limits the wives, yes, of course, but *the children*. FLDS communities continue. Texas returned all those children, including the very young wives and mothers. States, especially Utah, must enforce the law. Maybe The 19th Wife just like Wife #19 before it, can have that impact and help to end the tyranny. It's a terrible practice. But a pageturner and a terrific book!
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reviewed The 19th Wife on + 2 more book reviews
Two storylines intertwine: an historic fictionalized version of the origins of Mormonism, and a modern-day murder.

Excellent rendition of the story of Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, and the earliest days of the religion as followed from the life of the 19th wife of Brigham Young. You will learn much historical fact as well as insights into the lives of the early Mormons.

Also found the modern-day story engaging and relevant, if not representative of most Mormons (or so I hear).

Everyone in our book club enjoyed this book; we had a fascinating discussion about religion and its relevance to historical and modern-day lives, pros and cons. We were fortunate to have an ex-Mormon participate in our bookclub!
reviewed The 19th Wife on
Fascinating history of the Mormon church, modern day fundamentalist sects and polygamy. I was constantly wondering which parts were historical and which parts were fiction. Read this alongside Krakauer's "Under the Banner of Heaven" {non fiction account of Ebershoff's fictional settings)and you'll see how much research Ebershoff did for this novel. Great novelization of the psychological and emotional impact of polygamy that I never considered. Very good read.

*****

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Original Publication Date (YYYY-MM-DD)
People/Characters
Ann Eliza Young (Primary Character)
Jordan Scott (Primary Character)

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