Customer Reviews for

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 April 29, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Compelling!

    This one kept me engrossed from beginning to the much unexpected end. Much of the book focuses on the nineteenth century beginnings of polygamy and the Mormon faith, and at first I was put off by this,but was captivated by the very compelling story of Ann Eliza Young, Brigham Young's nineteenth wife. Compelling!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 29, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    A welcome addition to your library........

    From the first few pages of "The 19th Wife", you want to keep on reading. I was hesitant at first to read it because of the 514pgs, but don't let that scare you off! This is such a great book that you don't want to skip one single page.
    David Ebershoff does a rare and fantastic job of writing fiction, but convincing the reader that it's non-fiction-that these events are real and did happen. Some of the book is fact, some of it is not. He makes that crystal clear in Author's Notes and Acknowledgments. And the website that goes along with the book gives you even more detail and information, which makes the story even better.
    I highly recommend "The 19th Wife" to anyone who is looking for a great, new book to read. You will not disappointed!

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 27, 2010

    Couldn't stop reading it!

    This book is fascinating! A friend of mine recommended it and when I finally got around to reading it, I literally couldn't put it down. It has so many things going on, it keeps your attention. It was amazing to read about such a different lifestyle and belief system. The murder mystery woven in makes it that much more interesting. While I was reading it, it was all I could talk about and now have quite a few more people reading it too. Definitely a must read!

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 11, 2010

    What a great read!

    This book sent me off in different directions more than once. It made me curious about the Mormon history and also made me look up a few words. I love it when that happens. Although centered around a murder mystery, it wasn't just the plot that made it impossible to put down. The characters were developed so well that I just couldn't wait to see what happened to all of them. Although, not always flattering to the Mormon faith, the things that were said and done made perfect sense in the context in which it was written. Excellent plot, likeable and in depth characters, the exploration of complex human issues....I will read this one again.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 1, 2009

    A Page Turner!!!

    I couldn't put this book down!! An excellent combination of historical fact and current day fiction. I have recommended this book to many and everyone that has read it has loved it. Very well written and fascinating story.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 17, 2009

    Maters Thesis writen by BYU student reveals polygamy corrupted the soul of all involved

    I didn't know what to expect from this book and came away learning a lot.

    What I found most interesting is at the end of the book there is a research paper by a Master's Student of Womens Studies at BYU. She is a current Mormon and had been studying polygamy in the early years of the Mormon Church for about two years so that she could write a Master's Thesis on the topic. Both founding prophet Joseph Smith and the next prophet Brigham Young fully participated in polygamy and had approximately 50 wives each. It is difficult to know the exact amount because even though the first tenet of the Mormon chuch at that time was that the only way to obtain salvation was to be in a polygamous marriage, most of the marriages were done in secret and the women would not be at liberty to tell anyone.
    The conclusion of the Thesis was "In thruth, polygamy generally compromised the moral and spiritual development of its women and, equally important, its children." Also, "plural marriage could compromise the husband's soul as much as, if not more than, that of the plural wife." "This too is an awkward revelation, for it suggests our beloved leaders Joseph and Brigham, each of whom had at least half a hundred wives, were morally compromised by their conjugal indulgences. It brings me much pain to type this conclusion"

    The United States at the time that Utah wanted to become a State would not allow polygamy to be practiced and so Brigham Young removed the first and most important doctrine of the church, polygamy, so that he could have his State of Utah.
    "The doctrine Joseph and Brigham had preached as the Work of God was now being revised. If polygamy was no longer a divine doctrine, many in and out of the Church asked, what about the Doctrine & Covenaants as a whole? And what about the Book of Mormon itself. could it too be edited, revised, trimmed, amended, and otherwise altered by Church leaders in Salt Lake?" As printed in her Thesis.

    I also learned how Brigham Young would send Fathers on missions to England and confiscate their businesses and keep the profits when the profits should have gone to support the many wives and children of the recently departed father

    Also how Brigham Young preached the Law of Blood Atonment. He said, "Will you love your brothers and sisters likewise, when they have a sin that connot be atoned for without the shedding of their blood? Will you love that man or that woman well enough to shed their blood? that is what Jesus meant. This is loving our neighbor as our self; if he needs help, help him; if he wants salvation, and it is necessary to spill his blood upon the earth in order that he may be saved, spill it."

    The book weaves fiction with non-fiction to create a mystery of sorts.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 6, 2014

    Historical fiction with a twisr

    I truly enjoy historical fiction but David Ebershoff has stepped up the genre.

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  • Posted May 25, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    The 19th Wife is a novel with two alternating plot lines. In the

    The 19th Wife is a novel with two alternating plot lines. In the present day, twenty year old Jordan Scott,
    who was raised in Utah in a polygamous Mormon sect, was exiled
    at age fourteen from his community. His mother drove him to the local highway,
    handed him a few dollars and abandoned him. Years later, when Jordan's father is
    found shot dead in his home, his mother is accused and arrested. Jordan visits her in prison,
    where she insists she is innocent. He then begins to put the pieces together to try and figure out who
    really killed his father.

    The story also travels back to the 1800's and Ann Eliza Young, the prophet Brigham Young's 19th wife.
    At age twenty four, Ann Eliza Webb was forced to marry Young, the sixty year old president of the
    Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Can you believe that? And, she had to marry him because
    Young tricked her brother into bankrupting himself and he purposely tainted his name with the
    community. Young then made a deal with Ann Eliza's brother, saying he would pay off his debt and
    return him to good standing with the church, if he convinced his sister to marry him. After several
     years, a miserable Ann Eliza ends up divorcing Young. She wrote a memoir, Wife No. 19, in order to
     inform others what the life of a plural wife was really like. Both in this novel and in real life, she tried
    to put a stop to plural marriage.


    The way author David Ebershoff tells this story is fantastic. I was enthralled as I listened to the
     accounts of life in Salt Lake City, Utah. He weaves in fiction and fact wonderfully and tells this dual
     story seamlessly. Much of the accounts of life in the polygamous sect were uncomfortable to hear, yet fascinating at the same time.

    I listened to this one on audio, over eighteen hours worth, and the four narrators did a great job.
     I had no problem telling these characters apart and I followed the two different storylines easily.
     However, I do think that in reading the actual book I would have gotten a better grasp on the excerpts
    from newspaper and article clippings that appeared at random throughout.

    I did enjoy Ann Eliza Young's account more than the modern day murder mystery.
    It was an unsettling story and the author did a great job at getting Ann Eliza to draw you into her
    narrative. She would sometimes ask the reader's opinion... "Dear reader..." as she told her account.
    Yet at times, I wondered just how reliable any of these narrators were, especially Ann Eliza. In the
    end I found her to be a fascinating person.

    The story leads you all the way past Anne Eliza's divorce from Young and the
    ensuing court battle over whether she deserved alimony from him. Her son Lorenzo narrates some of
    the book towards the end, as he tells of what it was like growing up in a polygamous sect.

    In the end, when I found out who killed Jordan's father, I was taken by surprise. I had no idea who the killer was going to be, but it made sense. The story has a bittersweet ending and the last few lines regarding Jordan and his mother made me a little misty eyed.
    I think The 19th Wife would make for a nice group read, it's a story that begs to be discussed.

    disclaimer:
    I borrowed by copy of The 19th Wife from my local library.
    This review is my honest opinion. I did not receive any type of compensation for reading and reviewing
     this book. While I receive free books from publishers and authors, I am under no obligation to write a
    positive review. 

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 23, 2014

    Great read

    I was surprised at the many negative comments. Ofen I read reviews and take them with several grains of salt. So glad I added a few grains this time as this book is an excellent read well written. I have n idea how true to fact with "the church" this is and not really concerned. It's an excellent work of fiction based on some fact.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 24, 2013

    Dffccvv

    Ffvtfv

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 8, 2012

    Revealing & educating

    I enjoyed the journey this book took me on. I was educated and ultimately the reader has to make their own decisions on whom to side with.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 1, 2012

    Excellent historical fiction book.

    I couldn't put this book down.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 7, 2011

    Love this book

    Couldn't put this down. I would highly recommend for a book club read. Our group had great discussions around this novel!

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  • Posted July 29, 2011

    Fantastic!

    Fascinating. Great work of historical fiction. I couldn't put it down!

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  • Posted July 11, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Loved it - Must read for historical fiction/murder mystery fans

    A friend recommended this to me and I'm so glad she did. I'm fascinated by the polygymy culture and this "fictional" portrait is a fun read. Big Love fans will like it.

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  • Posted May 20, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    What an unusual book! I couldn't stop reading it. The author is very creative in his use of time and place; taking you between different time periods, worlds apart, but so alike. Great Read

    David Ebershoff takes a modern issue; one highly suspect, and weaves a story around the issues of polygamy, FLDS, and Latter Day Saints of today.
    Many of the principle views and beliefs are exposed and arranged in a manner for the "gentile" population to see and possibly understand. This book explains the original prophets reasons for the questionable modern-day practice of polygamy; marrying of young girls, and life in the compounds of Utah.
    I was mesmerized by the authors point of view, and have actually developed a tolerance for some of the acts that are displayed by the elders. It explores the similarities and differences between the sects of LDS and FLDS members. Fasinating.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 12, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    There are more than 19 Wives

    I have read several stories about the Mormons but this book is special. It combines reality while weaving a fictional who dunit into the mix. There really was a book called "The 19th Wife" written by Young's ex-wife. This part of the book is very interesting and answers some questions about the beginning of the LDS. The fiction is written well and gets you involved with the characters. You care about them. It is an interesting read and keeps you involved.

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  • Posted December 6, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Great Book

    This novel was fantastic. It was extremely informative and interesting. I loved the parallel stories about the infamous Ann Eliza Young and a fictional, modern day plural wife. It is very well written and was enjoyable to read. It made me think and it made me curious to know more about the Church of the Latter-Day Saints. I highly recommend this book to everyone.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 19, 2008

    Well crafted and authentic historical fiction novel

    This novel is certainly one of the best books that I have read in a long time. It was well crafted. I really enjoyed the way the author intertwined present day and history together and meshing it all together at the conclusion of the book. At many points, I had to remind myself that this is a piece of fiction and not a biography. Highly recommend!!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 1, 2008

    Compelling and well-written

    After having read two recent memoirs by young women who have escaped polygamous communities ''Escape' and 'Stolen Innocence'' this was the perfect next book to read. In beautifully written historical fiction, it tells the story of Anna Eliza Young, one of the many wives of Brigham Young.

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