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The 19th Wife

Average Rating 3.5
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Most Helpful Favorable Review

8 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

Enlightening and Satisfying from Start to Finish

In a nutshell: I've really enjoyed it!! I've learned a lot, and the book is fascinating. It is written a little differently than most books - it is two stories told simultaneously throughout the book. The story of Ann Eliza Young (Brigham Young's 19th wife, late 1800's)...
In a nutshell: I've really enjoyed it!! I've learned a lot, and the book is fascinating. It is written a little differently than most books - it is two stories told simultaneously throughout the book. The story of Ann Eliza Young (Brigham Young's 19th wife, late 1800's) is told from the time of her parents involvement in the Firsts section of the Mormons, through her crusade to end polygamous relationships in the United States. We also read the current-day story of Jordan Scott, who was thrown out of the compound in Utah at 14 years of age because the Prophet told his parents he needed to go - how amazing is that!! His mother (wife 19 out of 25ish wives) is accused of murdering his father six years after he leaves, and we learn a lot about the inner workings of the compound as Jordan digs into what really happened. In addition to the two stories, some of the passages in the book are not really chapters, but rather types of documents that help tell the story and present the reader with information: preface, essay, LDS (Latter-Day Saints) archive materials, newspaper articles, letters, etc. I found these to be fascinating, adding to the story rather than detracting from it. I just can't stop talking about this book to my friends and relatives! It's a great read, and I love Jordan's "family" by the end of the book!

My Review:
While the story is written as fiction, and the author has a note at the back of the book confirming that, it is factually based. I found the book very enlightening and entertaining.

Characters: David Ebershoff has done a wonderful job of creating believable characters in both the stories taking place within the book. He gives us a good idea of how the Firsts got a hold on people, what the Prophet was like, and how people lived in the late 1800's under his leadership. He paints a very believable story. Additionally, he does well in the modern-day story of Jordan and his mother, showing sometimes harsh realities facing families and children within the polygamous community. I really like what happened with Jordan's "family" at the end of the book.

Story-Line: The story-line was fascinating - much better than I expected it to be. It slowly drew me in, to the point that I just had to keep reading to find out what happened next! It also gave me a lot to think about, which I find refreshing. I was fascinated to learn that similarly to the Underground Railroad during the time of slavery in the United States, there was similar help for people wanting to leave the Prophet's compound.

Readability: This was a very enjoyable read. The use of alternate reading sources (letters, articles, archives, etc instead of only having traditional chapters) was fun (I had read some other reviews that said it was distracting and not helpful, but I disagree - possibly because I was warned ahead of time? I like to think I would have liked this style regardless). The transitions between the past and present-day stories was good and led the reader nicely through an understanding and development of the story.

Overall: A very enlightening and enjoyable book! I will be recommending this book to the book clubs I participate in - it would be a great book club read (the author has provided Reading Group Questions), providing readers with plenty to think about and discuss. Even if you don't normally read this type of book, stretch outside your comfort zone and give this book a try!

posted by wbarker on October 26, 2008

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Most Helpful Critical Review

6 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

A very entertaining read!

I couldn't put this book down. It's a murder mystery set in Utah, and at the same time flashes back to the time of Brigham Young and the start of polygamy. Mormons won't find this work of fiction very flattering though, as Young is seen through the eyes of his nineteent...
I couldn't put this book down. It's a murder mystery set in Utah, and at the same time flashes back to the time of Brigham Young and the start of polygamy. Mormons won't find this work of fiction very flattering though, as Young is seen through the eyes of his nineteenth wife, Ann Eliza Young.

posted by sassafras on January 14, 2010

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  • Posted May 21, 2010

    Great Learning Experience about the Mormons

    As the two separate stories unravel in this historical fiction novel, The 19th Wife, you most certainly can see the similarities between the current and past characters and their stories. Not knowing alot about the history of the Mormons and also the LDS, I found this book gave me a very in depth teaching of how they were organized, what their beliefs were and how they migrated across the country. The author, David Ebershoff, certainly did his homework in studying the various goings on of the Mormons, especially when Brigham Young was their leader. At times I felt that the past story dragged on with so much history, but as you read it you could actually feel that you were living at that time. The chapters of the second story, which takes place currently, were quick to get through and the story itself was pleasing to read. It is a long book to read, and does take some time, but for those that want to learn about the Mormons history, I would certainly recommend it.

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  • Posted May 18, 2010

    Interesting read on pologmy past and present

    I enjoyed this book more than I thought I would. Watching Big Love on HBO got me curious about plural marriages and I wanted to know if they depict the lifestyle correctly. This book did not help very much with the actual facts about plural marriages or how the show is doing in it's depiction but the book pulled me into it's story none the less. I liked the dual stories in one book, and found the author did a good job in seperating them and not confusing the reader. I also liked how the stories were similar but different enough to not bore the reader. I felt the author did a good job being as historically accurate as he could be as I am sure the church did not help with any information they thought would show the church or its members in a bad light. I did not feel as if the author was trying to be judgemental, he just gave the facts. A very good book.

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  • Posted March 4, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Fascinating fictional look into the beginning of Mormonism

    Captivating writing style which hurls the reader into a murder in an unique little Utah town in the present, and explores the genesis of Mormonism and poligamy. While this story claims to be fictional, some parts are extremely believable.

    Enjoyable read, couldn't put it down. Shared it with 4 of my friends.

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  • Posted October 24, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    How Big Love Started

    This book is a little long but very interesting. I felt that all the characters were written very well and you feel each of them. I have been a fan of Big Love for a long time and always wondered how this religon started. I would recommend this book to anyone who watches Big Love so they can understand how it all started.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 19, 2009

    I loved the book!!

    It was very interesting. i love watching big love so when i seen this i had to read it...happy i did!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 30, 2008

    I recommend this book.

    Fascinating, informative look at the early Mormon church, with well-drawn, sympathetic characters.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 27, 2008

    Mostly Great

    The 19th Wife delivers with eloquent prose, descriptive content and obviously well-researched historical circumstances and settings. This book deals with 2 stories at once, and at times, I felt it to be somewhat disjointed. Without spoiling anything, I personally believe the ending to be anti-climactic and quite disappointing. It did not measure up to the sometimes intense, and wholly developed initial 3/4 of the book. I also found the 2nd half to be somewhat repetitive. Overall, the book does a wonderful job of explaining the framework for the Mormon church and its off-shoots. As well as giving a pretty unbiased understanding of its followers' lifestyles. Anyone who has an interest in religion/religious fiction/history, would certainly gain some insight from this book. It wasn't the best book I've read this year, but the 500+ pages seemed to fly-by, and I was most certainly educated while being entertained.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 30, 2008

    Outstanding

    The 19th Wife proves to be a book that reveals the hush hush dark secrets of the Mormon faith. The book really wants one to go out there and rescue all these children forced into marriages at teenage age.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 14, 2008

    interesting and heart felt

    I am interested in the Mormon early history and the lives of the women who were in plural marriages. I found myself in awe of the strength of Ann Eliza Young, when women had few role models to look up to. She is independant yet wants to do the right thing. I loved this book and I hope you do too. Great book to discuss with friends!

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