The 19th Wife (Random House Reader's Circle Deluxe Reading Group Edition): A Novel

The 19th Wife (Random House Reader's Circle Deluxe Reading Group Edition): A Novel

by David Ebershoff
3.6 366

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19th Wife 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 366 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
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Made want to pray!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Pretty good
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Absolutely worth the read!
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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