The 19th Wife

The 19th Wife

3.6 358
by David Ebershoff

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"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 family's polygamous history is revealed, including how a young woman became a plural wife." Soon after Ann Eliza's…  See more details below


"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 family's polygamous history is revealed, including how a young woman became a plural wife." Soon after Ann Eliza's story begins, a second narrative unfolds - a 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 father's death. And as Ann Eliza's narrative intertwines with that of Jordan's search, readers are pulled deeper into the mysteries of love and faith.

Editorial Reviews

Ron Charles
[Ebershoff's] great collage of a novel mixes the early history of the Mormon Church with the story of a modern-day murder in a breakaway Mormon cult. Readers of Under the Banner of Heaven, Jon Krakauer's bestseller about the violent beginnings of Mormonism in the early 19th century and a double murder carried out by Mormon fundamentalists in 1984, will recognize this mingling of old and new. But Ebershoff has produced a different kind of book. For one thing, he's made up his modern-day adventure and fictionalized the historical record to shape his own ends. And more important, he's produced a novel that poses engaging challenges for the faithful in any denomination without discounting the essential value of faith. The result is a book packed with historical illumination, unforgettable characters and the deepest questions about the tenacity of belief.
—The Washington Post
Louisa Thomas
Despite the high hurdles Ebershoff has erected, the novel flows surprisingly well…In a less talented writer's hands, The 19th Wife could have turned into a Rube Goldberg contraption. But in the end the multiplicity of perspectives serves to broaden Ebershoff's depiction not only of polygamy, but also of the people whose lives it informs. And this gives his novel a rare sense of moral urgency.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

This sweeping epic is a compelling and original work set in 1875, when one woman attempts to rid America of polygamy. Ebershoff intertwines his tale with that of a 20th-century murder mystery in Utah, allowing the two stories to twist and turn into a marvelous literary experience. With such a sprawling tale to relate, a few narrators (Kimberly Farr, Rebecca Lowman, Arthur Morey and Daniel Passer) divide up the roles and deliver a solid, professional reading, true to Ebershoff's prose. A Random House hardcover (Reviews, June 23). (Sept.)

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Library Journal

Ebershoff's ( third novel-following The Danish Girl, a New York Times Notable Book soon to be adapted to film, and the New York Times best seller Pasadena-is both a chronicle of one woman's fight to end polygamy in the 19th century and a modern-day murder mystery. Unfortunately, having multiple narrators-Kimberly Farr, Rebecca Lowman, Arthur Morey, Daniel Passer-can be confusing; further, the CDs have neither disc number announcements at their start nor end-of-disc announcements at their conclusion. Recommended for medium-sized and large public libraries; academic libraries might also consider. [Audio clips available through library.booksontape.comand; the Random House hc, published in August, was a New York Times best seller.-Ed.]
—David Faucheux

Kirkus Reviews
Ebershoff (Pasadena, 2002, etc.) takes a promising historical premise and runs with it-perhaps a couple of dozen pages too long. He juxtaposes the world of modern polygamous families down on the remote Utah-Arizona line with the life of a junior wife of 19th-century Mormon patriarch Brigham Young. Junior in terms of both age and pecking order, Annie Young didn't much like the gig; she renounced life as a plural wife and broke from the church to publish a book about the horrors of polygamy. Her story inspired much antipathy among Young's anti-Mormon neighbors; Ebershoff borrows elsewhere from history to recapitulate a San Francisco newspaper's condemnation of Brigham Young as "a confidence man in the grand tradition of the hoodwinkers of the West." Meanwhile, in the present, a young Mormon man begins to examine the life he is falling away from, returning to the fictitious town of Mesadale, with its "few hundred houses now, warehouses for a family of seventy-five." (That would be Colorado City, Ariz., in real life-a place that has recently made national news for its polygamous customs.) Things are not as placid and well ordered as they seem in the red-rock plateau country. Young Jordan's mom, one of several wives, has apparently shot dear old dad as he was simultaneously gambling and recruiting new companionship online. As for Jordan-well, he's a mess, doing decidedly unsaintly things in order to keep body and soul together. Many histories intertwine in these pages, and many voices are heard from, ranging from the stately cadences of Victorian steel-nib prose to the most modern lingo. ("Manofthehouse2004: where in st george? / ALBIL: u no the Malibu Inn?") Apostasy and self-discovery ensue.Reminiscent of Wallace Stegner's Angle of Repose in scope and ambition, though the narrative sometimes drags. Elaine Koster/Elaine Koster Agency
From the Publisher
"Engrossing . . . remarkable . . . a book packed with historical illumination, unforgettable characters and the deepest questions about the tenacity of belief . . . The greatest triumph is the way [The 19th Wife] illuminates the larger landscape of faith." - The Washington Post Book World

"Part history class, part expose, part love story, The 19th Wife is thoroughly addictive. . . .[David] Ebershoff not only imparts a valuable lesson on religion, but spins a compelling tale that makes readers question the power of faith and what we believe and why." - USA Today

"Rarely has a work of fiction seemed more timely. . . . A page-turning epic. . . [a[ tour de force." - Vogue

“This exquisite tour de force explores the dark roots of polygamy and its modern-day fruit in a renegade cult...Ebershoff (The Danish Girl) brilliantly blends a haunting fictional narrative by Ann Eliza Young, the real-life 19th “rebel” wife of Mormon leader Brigham Young, with the equally compelling contemporary narrative of fictional Jordan Scott, a 20-year-old gay man…With the topic of plural marriage and its shattering impact on women and powerless children in today's headlines, this novel is essential reading for anyone seeking understanding of the subject.”
Publishers Weekly, Starred and “Pick of the Week”

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The 19th Wife
Preface to the First Edition

In the one year since I renounced my Mormon faith, and set out to tell the nation the truth about American polygamy, many people have wondered why I ever agreed to become a plural wife. Everyone I meet, whether farmer, miner, railman, professor, cleric, or the long-faced Senator, and most especially the wives of these-everyone wants to know why I would submit to a marital practice so filled with subjugation and sorrow. When I tell them my father has five wives, and I was raised to believe plural marriage is the will of God, these sincere people often ask, But Mrs. Young-how could you believe such a claim?  

Faith, I tell them, is a mystery, elusive to many, and never easy to explain.  

Now, with the publication of this autobiography, my enemies will no doubt suspect my motives. Having survived attempts on both my life and character, however, I stand unconcerned by their assaults. I have chosen to commit my memories to the page neither for fame, the trough from which I have drunk and would be happy never to return to, nor fortune, although it is true I am without home and have two small boys to care for. Simply, I wish to expose the tragic state of polygamy's women, who must live in a bondage not seen in this country since the abolishment of slavery a decade ago; and to reveal the lamentable situation of its children, lonely as they are.  

I promise my Dear Reader I shall recount my story truthfully, even when it distresses me to do so. In these pages you will come to know my mother, who by religious duty welcomed four wives into her husband's bed. You will encounter the old woman forced to share her husband with a girl one-fifth her age. And you shall meet the gentleman with so many wives that when one approaches him on the street, he answers, "Madame, do I know you?"  

I can, and will, go on.  

Under what circumstances does such outrage thrive? The Territory of Utah, glorious as it may be, spiked by granite peaks and red jasper rocks, cut by echoing canyons and ravines, spread upon a wide basin of gamma grass and wandering streams, this land of blowing snow and sand, of iron, copper, and the great salten sea-Utah, whose scarlet-golden beauty marks the best of God's handiwork-the Territory of Utah stands defiant as a Theocracy within the borders of our beloved Democracy, imperium in imperio.  

I write not for sensation, but for Truth. I leave judgment to the hearts of my good Readers everywhere. I am but one, yet to this day countless others lead lives even more destitute and enslaved than mine ever was. Perhaps my story is the exception because I escaped, at great risk, polygamy's conjugal chains; and that my husband is the Mormon Church's Prophet and Leader, Brigham Young, and I am his 19th, and final, wife.  

Sincerely Yours,
Ann Eliza Young
Summer 1874  

Wife #19:
A Desert Mystery

By Jordan Scott  

Her Golden Boy  

According to the St. George Register, on a clear night last June, at some time between eleven and half-past, my mom-who isn't anything like this-tiptoed down to the basement of the house I grew up in with a Golden Boy .22 in her hands. At the foot of the stairs she knocked on the door to my dad's den. From inside he called who is it? She answered me, BeckyLyn. He said-or must've said-come in. What happened next? Nearly everyone in southwest Utah can tell you. She nailed an ace shot and blew his heart clean from his chest. The paper says he was in his computer chair, and from the way the blood splattered the drywall they're pretty sure the blast spun him three times around.  

At the time of his death my dad was online playing Texas hold em and chatting with three people, including someone named DesertMissy. He spent the final seconds of his life in this exchange:  

Manofthehouse2004: hang on

DesertMissy: phone?

Manofthehouse2004: no my wife

DesertMissy: which one?

Manofthehouse2004: #19  

Sometime later-a few seconds? minutes?-DesertMissy wrote: u there??  

Later she tried again: u there????  

Eventually she gave up. They always do.  

When my mom pulled the trigger my dad had a full house, three fives and a pair of ducks. He was all in. The paper says although dead, he ended up winning seven grand.  

I once heard someone on tv say we die as we lived. That sounds about right. After my dad was shot the blood seeped across his t-shirt in a heavy stain. He was sixty-seven, his face pre-cancerously red. Everything about him was thick and worn from a life boiled by the sun. When I was a kid I used to dream he was a cowboy. I would imagine him out in the barn saddling his roan with the white socks, readying himself for a ride of justice. But my dad never rode anywhere for justice. He was a religious con man, a higher-up in a church of lies, the kind of schemer who goes around saying God meant for man to have many women and children and they shall be judged on how they obey. I know people don't really talk like that, but he did and so do a lot of the men where I come from, which is-let's just say-way the fuck out in the desert. You might've heard of us. The First Latter-day Saints, but everyone knows us as the Firsts. I should tell you right off we weren't Mormons. We were something else-a cult, a cowboy theocracy, a little slice of Saudi America. We've been called everything. I know all that because I left six years ago. That was the last time I saw my dad. My mom too. I know you know this but just in case: she was wife #19.  

His first wife was more than willing to put the rap on my mom. For someone who wasn't supposed to talk to nonbelievers, Sister Rita had no trouble telling the Register everything. "I was up in the keeping room with the girls' hose," she blabbed to the paper. "That's when I saw her come upstairs. She had one of those faces-it looked funny, all squished up and red, like she'd seen something. I thought about asking but I didn't, I don't know why. I found him about twenty minutes after that when I went down myself. I should've gone down the minute I saw that face of hers, but how was I supposed to know? When I saw him in his chair like that, with his head, you know, just hanging in his chest like that, and all that blood-it was everywhere, I mean all over him, everything so, so wet, and red-well I started calling, just calling out to anyone for help. That's when they came running down, all of them, the women I mean, one after the next, the kids too, they kept coming. The house shook, there were so many running down the stairs. The first to get there was Sister Sherry, I think. When I told her what happened, and then she saw for herself, she started crying, screaming really, and the next one, she started crying too, and then the next after her, and so on. I never heard anything like it. The shrieks spread up the line, like fire, catching and spreading, one after the next and pretty soon it seemed the whole house was on fire with screams, if you know what I mean. You see, we all loved him just the same."  

The next morning the Lincoln County sheriff handcuffed my mom: "You'll have to come with me, Sister." I don't know who called him in, he usually didn't get out to Mesadale. There's a picture of her being guided into the backseat of the cruiser-the rope of her braid flat against her back as she ducks in. The paper says she didn't resist. Tell me about it. She didn't resist when her husband married her fifteen-year-old niece. She didn't resist when the Prophet told her to throw me out. "No point in making a fuss"-she used to say that all the time. For years she was obedient, believing it part of her salvation. Then one day I guess she went pop! That's how these things go, you hear about it all the time. Except because of the suppressor it was probably more like a phump! than a pop!  

Did Sister Rita do her in? Actually, it was the chat session. The Register loved the irony: VICTIM NAMES HIS MURDERER BEFORE SHE PULLS THE TRIGGER. Technically he didn't name her, he numbered her. But really, Rita's statement didn't help either. It gave the sheriff enough. The next day my mom was booked and that picture was up on the Register's home page, my mom sliding into the cruiser, her hair a heavy chain.  

That's how I found out. I was at the library with my friend Roland. We were tooling around the web, checking out nothing in particular, then all of a sudden there it was, the story about my mom:  

Sign of Strife in Renegade Sect?  

In the picture she's shackled at the wrists. Her forehead is white and glossy, reflecting a camera's flash in the dawn, and she has a look in her eyes. How to describe it? Should I say her eyes were dark and damp, the eyes of a small snouted animal? Or will you know what I mean if I say she had the scared-shitless look of a woman busted for murder and about to spend the rest of her life in the can?    

From the Hardcover edition.

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19th Wife 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 360 reviews.
wbarker More than 1 year ago
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!
jlp428 More than 1 year ago
While the writer is clever switching between various texts (some true stories, some based on true stories, some made up) it is difficult to determine fact from fiction. The actual story of Jordan and Johnny tracking down the killer is anticlimactic. That story was a bit interesting in the beginning but lacks real substance. The book is weak overall and was a huge disappointment.
TrishNYC More than 1 year ago
This was a most enlightening and interesting read. Though the book is fiction, it draws on the memoirs of Anne Eliza Young who was purported to be Brigham Young's nineteenth wife(I say purported because it appears that he had quite a few and she was probably not really #19 but may have been somewhere around #25) to weave a tale that will captivate you almost from the first page. The story merges the life of Anne Eliza in the past with that of Jordan Scott in the present. Anne Eliza's fame/infamy sprang from her decision to divorce her husband in so public a manner for what she saw as his abandoment and mistreatment of her. She took him to court and wrote a book to discredit him and his polygamous practices. Obviously by so doing she became persona non grata with her former church members and their families. She fought an extensive battle with Brigham Young both in the court of law and in the court of public opinion. Her battle would prove to be instrumental in dismantling polygamy as a major belief system of the Mormon church.

The parallel and present day story that is told alongside Anne Eliza's is that of Jordan Scott whose mother is herself a 19th wife and accused of shooting her husband to death. Years before, Jordan had been abandoned on the side of the road because his father had caught him holding hands with his step sister and the prophet considered this behavior to be inappropriate(by the way he was 14 when this happened). It is important to mention that Jordan's family was considered fundamentalist and not part of the Latter Day Saints(Mormons). His community was headed by a prophet and almost every family was polygamist or soon to be. When Jordan returns to help his mother after her arrest, he is now 20 and still carries with him the scars of his earlier abandonment and ostracism.

Both stories are told side by side with Anne Eliza's story occupying most of the book. Though I found the modern day story interesting, I was not blown away by it. The real genuis is the way in which the author used Anne Eliza's two books, church documents, newspaper reports and people who may have known her to create a portrait of a woman who must be admired for her spunk. I imagine that women's rights were not what they are today and getting a divorce during those times for a woman must have been a difficult venture. With that in mind, I cannot begin to comprehend the guts it must have taken her to get such a public divorce from the leader of a powerful church. Her books, lectures and later works where all driven by what she saw as the unbridled male lust that was manifested in polygamy and the women and children held hostage to this practice.

In my opinion, this is a very well written book that gives you a look into the early history of the Mormon church. Obviously you need to do your own research to find out what is factual and what is fiction. Anne Eliza though very informative on the practices of her church at the time was also a biased author whose anger toward Brigham Young clouded some of her writing. I would highly recommend this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I purchased this book thinking it would be a good read but i was wrong. It didnt mention the main carachter till the seventh chapter. And to be honest with you i thought it was well, boring.. so if i were you i wouldnt waste my well earned money on this book. Period. I did not have a good expierience with this book.
SET91 More than 1 year ago
Very dissapointed. I was very excited to read this book because it was on a very interesting topic, I had heard good things about it, and the from the description I thought that is seemed very intriguing. However as soon as I started reading it I was dissipointed. The summary does not explain this book well, and Ann Eliza isn't even mentioned for the first 7 chapters. I feel like this could have been an amazing story, but the topic was simply put into a very poor setting. I hate saying this because I know how much work authors put into their books, but I do not recommend this book. I do want to say that I think this author is good at writing itself, but this book is just horrid.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I purchased this book expecting a story of polygamous life in the fundamentalist community. It is, however, the fictional tale of a homosexual "lost" boy who seeks to discover the truth regarding the death of his father. The chapters rotate between solving the murderous crime and a "diary" of the 19th wife of Brigham Young. The story is too drawn out for personal enjoyment and is filled with offensive language.
1louise1 More than 1 year ago
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!
ReadingQueen12-17 More than 1 year ago
In my own little mind I've always conceptualized Mormonism as the love child of the Pope and Ron L. Hubbard. You have these devoutly Christian followers with some pretty Sci-Fi beliefs. Throw in the polygamy factor and I am perversely fascinated. It's no surprise, then, that I was instantly drawn to The 19th Wife. Here we have dual story lines: The trials and tribulations of Brigham Young's infamous 19th Wife, Ann Eliza, partnered with the trials and tribulations of a 19th wife from a modern day polygamous cult accused of murdering her "husband". For all the research the author did in preparation for this novel (and it is obvious he did his homework) and with all the intrigue that currently surrounds these polygamist sects, the book truly fell short of the glory it could have been. Whereas the modern-day plot completely captivated me (Warren Jeffs meets Murder She Wrote) the fictitious excerpts from Ann Eliza's book, The 19th Wife, just blatantly dragged. One does get an education about the origins of Mormonism, the exodus of the Mormons to Salt Lake City, and the "philosophy" behind polygamy, but there is so much added fluff that the focus of the whole story gets bogged down. By the time the murderer in the modern day plot was revealed, I was so eager for the book to be over, I didn't even care. Overall this was a good book, but it could have been soooo much better.
Justpeachy1 More than 1 year ago
My Synopsis: The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff is a story within a story. One part historical narrative. One part modern day polygamist murder mystery. LOL... I know how it sounds! In 1875 Ann Eliza Young, the infamous 19th Wife of the Mormon leader, Brigham Young embarked on a campaign to end the practice of polygamy within the Mormon Church. Sounds stuffy, but it's definitely not. Throughout the book we learn the history of Ann Eliza's family and how polygamy effected them. From Joseph Smith's first revelation, through Ann Eliza's ex-communication and flight. Each story heard through the voices of it's characters. Memoirs, diary entry's, along with Mormon records give the reader a sense of who the people were, the places they lived and the struggles they faced. Another story starts to unfold with Jordan Scott, a young gay man, who was expelled from his polygamist home in modern day Utah. His mother is accused of murdering her polygamist husband, she too being the 19th wife. It's up to Jordan to figure out what really happened that night, the differences between, "The Firsts" and the LDS church of today, and where he fits into the picture. Both stories intertwine weaving a tale of power, religious fervor and hardship. What does Ann Eliza young have to do with Jordan Scott. You'll just have to read to find out! My Thoughts: This was a very powerful book, in my opinion. David Ebershoff is obviously a very good historian. I liked the book, though I found it somewhat confusing. The stories were easy to separate and you always knew which part of the story you were following, whether it was Eliza's story or Jordan's. The confusion for me was in whether it was actual historical evidence Ebershoff was using or whether the records were fictional. Were these the actual diaries and memoirs and letters from the people in Ann Eliza's life or were they all made up. It was just really hard for me to distinguish the difference. I know it is a novel but how much is based on fact? Regardless of whether those parts of the story were historically accurate or not, it certainly made for a very interesting read. I had not had much experience with Mormonism or their beliefs before reading this novel and it was very interesting. I knew they had been persecuted, and that polygamy was at one time a practice with them. I had no idea what the extent was. The reader should be aware that there is a bit of language in this book, but it's not every other word, or very distracting from the story. It was a very engaging book. A little on the long side at 544 pages, but definitely worth your time. The characters were appealing and their struggles, through not something we face everyday were easy to relate to.
mhb29 More than 1 year ago
An excellent account of the history of the LDS Church and the beginnings of poligamy. The story surrounding the beginnings of poligamy have become clouded and distorted through the years by the Mormon Church. This story though fictional is based upon the life of one of Brigham Youngs wives and her break from this bondage that the Mormon Church imposed upon her and many other women. The book also tells the story of a current wife of one of the "Firsts" the off shoot group that continue to practice poligamy. This is a tale of the current oppresive life these women and their children suffer under. The young males are often kicked out of the group to fend for themselves. Young girls are married off to much older men who have multiple wives. This group is accurately depicted as a cult which does not have connections with the current Mormon Church. The Mormon Church does not condone poligamy today but the church history is steeped in poligamy during the mid to late 1800's. The 19th wife Ann Eliza played a significant role in ending the practice.
yperez More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed reading the 19th Wife. The book goes from current situation to historical times. It was interesting how this women back in the 1800's could make a difference. Now days not many people like to take a stand for what they believe in their hearts. It was a book that keeps you interested. 19th Wife does make you think, it is also a good mystery. I would highly recommend this book.
LPieroni More than 1 year ago
The 19th Wife is a work of fiction which weaves historical facts into a narrative that is both compelling and unique. While following the story of one of the first plural wives of mormonism, Elizabeth Young, you are also in present day time setting following a homosexual ex-Mormon's quest to solve his father's murder in order to prove his mother's innocence. In addition, you are learning about Ann Eliza Young's crusade to end polygamy in the United States in 1875. Ebershoff proves to us that time travel IS possible, at least in his novel. What Ebershoff succeeds in so beautifully is weaving multiple stories, settings, and perspectives into one novel. It keeps the reader completely enthralled while learning about Mormonism, a topic most wouldn't normally run out to the stands to read about. While the novel doesn't paint the Mormon religion in a very good light, he gives his characters (even the hateful zealots) depth and empathy. Every character's actions, however unbelievable or apprehensible, are carefully drawn out so that the reader can see the deeper reasoning behind the actions. To put it simply, Ebershoff's characters are real people. Their faults, memories, hopes, and regrets are clear. There's nothing flat or dull about any of them. For more of this review and others, go to:
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I'd read Escape, a true story about modern polygamy and thought this was a good follow up to it. Though this story is fiction it is based on facts about polygamy and its history. I thought the story was interesting and liked learning more about the history of Mormonism.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
unfussy2 More than 1 year ago
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!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The combination of voices and times didn't work for me. Lengthy examination of details of abuse of girls and women got creepy. Couldn't finish it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
this book is an entanglement of 2 separate stories - both of which are well written and wonderful to read. The way that they are intertwined at times can be a little confusing. I would still highly recommend the book
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I truly enjoy historical fiction but David Ebershoff has stepped up the genre.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The historical plot was more enjoyable than the modern one. Overall, an interesting read.
thebookwormNJ More than 1 year ago
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.