Book Reviews of The 19th Wife

The 19th Wife
The 19th Wife
Author: David Ebershoff
ISBN-13: 9780812974157
ISBN-10: 0812974158
Publication Date: 6/16/2009
Pages: 528
Rating:
  • Currently 3.6/5 Stars.
 301

3.6 stars, based on 301 ratings
Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks
Book Type: Paperback
Reviews: Amazon | Write a Review

53 Book Reviews submitted by our Members...sorted by voted most helpful

reviewed The 19th Wife on + 784 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.
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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.
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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!
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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.
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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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Helpful Score: 3
This book contained quite a bit of Mormon history along with murder mystery. The mystery, set in the present day, involves a "Lost Boy" trying to figure out if his mother killed his father,.

The history, unknown to many, is the story of the building of the Mormon faith. I did not think this would be compelling, but it was.

Well written, fascinating, and worth reading.
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Helpful Score: 2
I really enjoyed this book. It combines a murder mystery with a historical look at plural marriage as practiced by the early Mormom settlers. It sounds like an incongruous pairing but it works. I was drawn in from the first page and barely put it down until I finished.
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Helpful Score: 2
This was one of those books that once I picked it up it was hard to put down and stay away from. The intertwining of past with present took a moment to get used to but once the story got moving it didn't matter. Story well told from the perspective of a wife and of a child.
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Helpful Score: 2
At first I wasn't sure I'd like this book, but the more I read it, the more I wanted to continue. It's an interesting mix of fact and fiction, with some excellent insights about religion and human nature.
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Helpful Score: 2
I did not like "The 19th Wife". It is two stories in one, one is set in the early 19th century and the other more modern. I was bored with both stories! One story is about the 19th wife of Brigham Young, prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and the other is about a young man who was thrown out of his polygamous fundamentalist sect and the murder of his father. The book takes on polygamy, gay rights, faith, and God. Quite a list of things to deal with. The book cover states "...a historical fiction with a modern murder mystery to create a brilliant novel of literary suspense. There was no suspense and the book is certainly not brilliant." I would not recommend this book to anyone.
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Helpful Score: 1
I really enjoyed this one. The Mormon church is secretive and fascinating and this gives a little bit of its history and a lot of the implications of that history. Three months later I still hear the story playing in my head.
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Helpful Score: 1
I only made it through about 150 pages before finally giving it up, which is rare for me. I'll usually read a book through the end hoping it will get better but I just couldn't do it with this one. I found the writing style with the two story lines very disjointed and hard to follow. I would be just getting into the one character/story and the it would abruptly switch to the other and it would take me several pages to get into that one then it would switch again. Plus there were some odd newspaper articles and Wiki pages thrown in that were really distracting. Very strange book.
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Helpful Score: 1
Ebershoff uses many styles from letters and journals to tell the story of Brigham Young's "19th" wife, Eliza,tho she was probably a lot higher number as Young didn't count the wives he was no longer having intimate relations with, the barren, and the old wives. Eliza leaves Young and the church to campaign for the banishment of polygamy and the horrible effect on the many wives, children and polygamous men, as well. I learned a lot of history which I enjoyed, but the last 100 pgs dragged so much I struggled for several days to make myself finish it. 'Course I have to read all the prologs, epilogs and footnote information. A worthy read, just for the historical information.
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Helpful Score: 1
I really tried to like this book, but found myself skipping the chapters where it went back in time and just reading the present day ones. To me it would have been better to split the two stories into 2 separate books. I ended up not finishing it. It was just too much.
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Helpful Score: 1
I knew very little about this side of religion, so to me this book was very interesting! There was a lot of history on one side of a story and on another side a modern day murder mystery. This all intertwines into one great book! This book makes me want to read more about this and more by this author.
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Helpful Score: 1
Quite the page turner! I enjoyed reading about the present day/early days back and forth of Mormon history. Found the book to be fascinating. Cannot wait to read other books by this author.
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Helpful Score: 1
I didn't finish reading. It was a struggle to stay interested and keep up with the back and forth stories being told. Most of the character language was offensive and unnecessary.
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Helpful Score: 1
I liked this book, I read it quickly, it combines historical fiction, and a modern day mystery.
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Helpful Score: 1
Interesting fictional account of Ann Eliza Young's crusade to end polygamy in the United States. Folded into the historical account is a modern-day murder mystery involving a polygamist family. The author intersperses newspaper articles, archival documents, and a master's thesis between the chapters to create a novel that keeps you bouncing between present day and the past, but in a coherent way that does not confuse or detract from the stories in any way. For compulsive multi-taskers, this is the best of all worlds, like reading two books at the same time! Would recommend this book for anyone interested in the beginnings of the Mormon religion.
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Helpful Score: 1
This was a better book in reflection than it was during the actual reading. I often found myself turning pages to move ahead -- bored with some portion of the history. I normally like historical novels and I like current day mysteries, and I like novels written in different character voices -- but this was an overwhelming combination of all of these. Nonetheless I stayed to the end because I always need to know how the mystery is solved.
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Helpful Score: 1
David Ebershoff weaves together two riveting timelines concerning American polygamy in The 19th Wife. In a set of fictionalized historical documents which cover the early history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), Ebershoff gives voice to Ann Eliza Young, a real historical figure who exposed and denounced polygamy as she divorced the Prophet Brigham Young. (She wrote a memoir called Wife No. 19 but that is not what is included in this novel.) Contemporary polygamy is seen through the eyes of Jordan Scott, a young gay son excommunicated from the Firsts—a polygamist group who broke away from LDS—returning to help his mother (also a wife #19) charged with the murder of his father. Both are equally compelling but distinct accounts demonstrating the harm that plural marriage inflicts on all involved. Mystery and historical fiction rolled into one, The 19th Wife is a satisfying read that inspires the reader to think about faith, religious freedom, love, and the limits of acceptance.
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I only read the first chapters of the book. The plot seemed silly.
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This is a very uniquely written and interesting book. It is a blend of history and fiction that keeps you wondering if it is indeed real. I really enjoyed it. The story flows easily and keeps you engaged.
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I read this after watching the movie.. and it varies quite a bit. I already had an idea about the plot and outcome, but this was a good read that kept me interested throughout. I have to admit, there were times where I was a bit confused about which story should be the focal point (it's one of those story-within-a-story books)... but I was interested in both and kept reading. All in all this was a three star read for me.. attention grabbing, interesting, historical facts mixed with fiction, and some added drama. I would recommend it to a friend, I'm glad I read it... just not sure I would read it for a second time.
reviewed The 19th Wife on
When I began reading this book, I was afraid it might not hold my attention. However, as I read on, I became more and more interested in the parallel and somehow entwined stories. I ended up looking forward each day to my next chance to spend time reading the book and even stayed up rather late several nights to make faster progress.

The characterizations seemed real, the frequent switching from the early days of Mormonism to the present, and from narrative to (sometimes made-up, but convincing) documents, newspaper articles, and letters, far from confusing me, enriched the story. I learned a lot--something that always increases a book's value for me. Obviously a great deal of research went into the writing of this one, and the author is careful not to leave the reader feeling deceived by the way he has fictionalized the story.

All things considered, I found it a really satisfying read, in spite of certain distracting mistakes in English grammar (for example, after a series of three plurals, the singular "it" is used to refer to the items in question). It is all too easy to fall prey to the trickery of a word processor, so I do not blame the author. Rather, I think this book deserved a better job of editing.
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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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
A good read. I think the author was trying to give a graphic depiction of life in a fundamentalist Morman Sect. It was scary in parts and empowering in others. I would recommend reading this book
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This was an interesting book, taking you through the founding of the Mormon Church and the implementation of polygamy through the eyes of a reluctant family, while also following a modern story of a murder in a compound. The author keeps you interested in both plots, and shows a somewhat scathing portrait of the struggles of polygamy in its early days and dark side of more recent extreme groups of polygamists.
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I loved this book! I thought the stories intertwined so smoothly, and were easy to keep track of. This book kept my interest until the very end. I'm not usually a historical fiction reader, but this book not only was interesting to me but it also got me interested in the beginnings of the Mormon church, which led me to more great books.
reviewed The 19th Wife on
I thought this book took a little longer to get into than some others since there are two stories to develop, but it's worth the initial confusing. I couldn't put it down and I love how the two intertwined.

Fascinating.
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Just read some of the other reviews and was surprised ... I really liked this book. Loved the mix of historical fiction and modern day.
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I really enjoyed this book. The writing is fluid and easy to read, so even if the book runs a little long at over 500 pages it's still a fairly quick read. For jumping back and forth between multiple storylines the plot still moves forward quickly and easily. I loved the "main" character of Jordan Scott, and the way the two stories intertwined in the end was well-pulled off. I would recommend this book to any historical fiction fans.
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This book was a struggle for me to finish. While it's an interesting subject and there are definitely interesting characters, the book was just not compelling.
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While this was not a favorite book of mine, I did enjoy it. I mostly enjoyed the history of the Mormon religion (if you choose to call it a religion, in my personal opinion, it is more of a cult). I also liked the link the author had between past and present.
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I read this book on the request of a friend. It is a very telling tale of the past Mormon religion and the current group called the 1st's. The author did a great job with the parts of the historical fiction, which I love. But I hate reading the F word over and over and the nasty language and such of the modern day fictional story of the 1st's. I therefore could not recomment this book.
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I found the historical background on Ann Eliza Young interesting with the caveat that the author wove fictional situations into the story. Honestly the intertwined sections that took place in the present day neither added nor subtracted from the book. Perhaps this might have been better served as a novella added to the end.I certainly learned something about the history of Mormonism and polygamy as practiced throughout the history of the "church." Like another reviewer I have some concerns as to the cult-like and secretive practices that survive today and so I have a hard time calling Mormonism a mainstream religion. Upon finishing the book, I came away with ever more concern for the fates of women and children who are members of polygamist sects and admire those organizations and people, both Mormon and non-Mormon, whose activism reaches out and helps those who leave such intolerable situations. All in all this book is a decent primer for those who are curious about Mormon history as long as the reader realizes that the historical accuracies are just structural with fictionalized persons and documents meant to give the work body.
reviewed The 19th Wife on
I liked it. But somewhere in the middle it became a slog to get through. The book turned into a history lesson and was no longer enjoyable. If you want a history lesson, read "Under the Banner of Heaven."
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I enjoyed this book a great deal. I love historical fiction and religious fiction, this was both. The way in which the book was written fluctuating between present day and mid 1800's was interesting but did make the book a bit harder to read and certainly slowed the reading pace in order to gain full understanding of everything that was going on. The characters were not likeable in any way and truly I cannot think of a one that I could say I liked, but they worked in the context of the story. This is one of those books that is worth all of the hype. A good mystery, factual experiences mixed with fictional ones and a strong sense to put it all together.
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It's a page turner. I love it. The two stories interact to make it more interesting and let us understant a bit about this religion
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While I was interested in the story, I wanted to like this book more than I actually did. I didn't feel very connected to the characters, especially Jordan. This lead me to not be that invested in the story. I would pick the book up and forget what had happened the chapter before, which is very unusual for me.
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This is an excellent novel about polygamy and the history of the LDS church. I found it well-written and engaging throughout.
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Initially hard to follow because of the dual-story line, once I got past that challenge this became one of my favorite books EVER! Unbelievable that this is set in present day. It brought me to action in seeking more knowledge about helping these women. Can't believe this still takes place. An intriguing book; well written, well researched, and definitely worth the read!
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This book is written from two different periods of time. While the "past" version is interesting, I was *much* more interested in the more "now" parts of the book.

The present of the book is about a Mormon wife accused of murder- while the past is written about a "famous" Mormon wife who spoke out.



This was a good read, but is one case where I was much more captivated by the movie than the book.
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This book is fantastic. I saw the movie and decided to read the book. It gives a much more in depth look at the time and place of the story. I read it pretty fast. :)
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Though not as detailed as "under the banner of heaven" it was a good follow up, it covered much of the same history of the Mormon faith, though not in perhaps as un-biased a fashion.
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Great book, from the beginning with John Smith, Brigham Young, facts and a murder to solve!
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Hard to get into
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I loved this book and could not put it down and stayed awake into the early hours of the morning reading it. It was a very good read.
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Very interestingly done. Kept you wanting to read on.
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I really enjoyed this book. It was a good read. I learned quite a bit.
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Faith, I tell them, is a mystery, elusive to many, and never easy to explain.

Sweeping and lyrical, spellbinding and unforgettable, David Ebershoffs 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 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 familys polygamous history is revealed, including how a young woman became a plural wife.

Soon after Ann Elizas story begins, a second exquisite narrative unfoldsa 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 fathers death.

And as Ann Elizas narrative intertwines with that of Jordans search, readers are pulled deeper into the mysteries of love and faith.
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Perhaps I am not willing to give it a proper "chance" but the vulgar language is such a turn off I cannot stand to read it beyond the first dozen or two pages..... I'd hoped to learn a bit more of the history of this belief, but this author has a very limited vocabulary ~ and it is NOT good. I can't bring myself to repost the book / it will hit the recycling bin and be destroyed instead.