The Lonely Polygamist

The Lonely Polygamist

by Brady Udall


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A New York Times bestseller: "Udall masterfully portrays the hapless foibles and tragic yearnings of our fellow humans." —San Francisco Chronicle

Golden Richards, husband to four wives, father to twenty-eight children, is having the mother of all midlife crises. His construction business is failing, his family has grown into an overpopulated mini-dukedom beset with insurrection and rivalry, and he is done in with grief: due to the accidental death of a daughter and the stillbirth of a son, he has come to doubt the capacity of his own heart. Brady Udall, one of our finest American fiction writers, tells a tragicomic story of a deeply faithful man who, crippled by grief and the demands of work and family, becomes entangled in an affair that threatens to destroy his family’s future. Like John Irving and Richard Yates, Udall creates characters that engage us to the fullest as they grapple with the nature of need, love, and belonging.

Beautifully written, keenly observed, and ultimately redemptive, The Lonely Polygamist is an unforgettable story of an American family—with its inevitable dysfunctionality, heartbreak, and comedy—pushed to its outer limits.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780393062625
Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date: 05/03/2010
Pages: 602
Product dimensions: 6.40(w) x 9.40(h) x 1.40(d)

About the Author

Brady Udall is the author of New York Times bestseller The Lonely Polygamist, The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint, and Letting Loose the Hounds. He teaches at Boise State University and lives in Boise, Idaho, with his wife and children.

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The Lonely Polygamist 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 204 reviews.
bookaholicNC More than 1 year ago
I am a fan of Udall's writing, but was disappointed in this book. It is called a "dark comedy," but the tragic parts didn't seem so tragic juxtaposed with the comedy. Also, the horrific parts about the government's bomb testing were also diluted with the humor. After reading much literature about polygamy, I was not prepared to be sympathetic to this family, but I was. . . a testament to Udall's writing. Alas, the book seemed to take on too much.
RichardHead More than 1 year ago
Golden Richards is a big family man, a very big family man. A polygamist Mormon with four wives and 28 children it is a wondered how he has any time for his floundering construction company (maybe this is why it is struggling?). In spite of his large family, Richard's increasing finds himself on the outside, detached from his loved ones. With this situation the author masterfully weaves together a dark comedy that made me laugh and cry. Golden has his secrets, a terrible crush on a woman he sees passing his job site: oh yeah, the job site itself is a Nevada cathouse but he tells the family it is a senior center! The family itself is tearing at the seams and Richard's is lost as to what to do. This is some of the best writing of 2010.
words917 More than 1 year ago
No stranger to quirky stories that probe the depths of humanity, Udall has brought to bear every bit of the formidable strength he has been cultivating in his previous work. As a result, what he has given us is an exquisitely crafted novel whose 602 pages had me alternately laughing aloud and reading through unstoppable tears. While the story of a man with 4 wives, 28 children, a struggling construction business and a mid-life crisis that could destroy it all might seem not only unusual but implausibly far-fetched, the skill and compassion with which Udall draws each nuanced character makes them so painfully human that by the end of the story, they aren't at all unbelievable, but rather, an assemblage of every family you've ever known. It is a story of failure and redemption, dreams and disappointment, about the threats that seep in from the most unlikely sources and the blessings that do the same. An epic tale of love and family and the deepest currents of what it means to be human, a novel that should be on everyone's bookshelf -- and every book award list for 2010.
karynwhite on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I am a big fan of The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint/Brady Udall so I have been waiting for this book for ages. I think Udall captures young boy characters well, so I really enjoyed reading Rusty's parts of the novel. I liked him as a main character more than I liked Golden. I found Golden a really slow character - I guess that's good writing - as the way he was written illustrated his personality.It is an epic novel about man dealing with his life. I would recommend it to people who like big, meaty novels and I would espec recommend it if you enjoyed Edgar Mint.
mjmbecky on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It was an interesting take to tell the story from the perspective of the polygamous husband. Had this ever been done before? If so, I haven't read one like this. There was a humorous bent to the novel that had me really feeling for poor Golden. As a character, he seemed like a giant oaf of a man that was being pushed from house to house, and wife to wife, with not even a "pot to pee" in (both literally and metaphorically). There are some pretty hilarious scenes of his children creating non-stop chaos around the home, bathroom waiting lines because of all the family members, and awkward romantic interludes with wives that just didn't work (to put it mildly). Through it all, Golden seems to go with the flow, trying to meet the needs of everyone and not succeeding. In fact, he then comes last on the list, and he feels disconnected and unhappy most of all. Golden is just a funny character, and one you just can't help but feel sorry for along the way. It seems as if a million bad things happen to him, which makes him an easy character to like. I know it sounds odd, overall. I have to give Udall credit for writing a novel, with all its humor and quirky mishaps, that he created a character and story that we could embrace. Overall, I did enjoy this novel and liked it a lot more than I did some of the previous stories. I suppose that I don't need to be hit over the head anymore with stories of corruption, so it was nice to have a character-driven plot, where polygamy actually seemed more like a device than a philosophical theme!
ironicqueery on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Lonely Polygamist is the story of a man, his four wives, and 28 children. Brady Udall manages to convincingly get inside the head of all his main characters and tell a story that is touching, funny, and relatable. Udall seems to have researched his material well, as the details and emotions each person feels come across as authentic and varied, whether male, female, young or old. If there is one complain, perhaps the ending is a bit weak. For all the intricateness of the story, Udall seems to tie things up in a nice, simple package. Nevertheless, the strength of this book is the varied thoughts and emotions from all his many characters, showing a huge range of humanity, without being overly judgmental. The Lonely Polygamist is certainly worth a read.
jlouise77 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I liked this book. As despicable as one would think a character who had multiple wives would be, it was easy to like and feel sorry for the main character. It gives perspective into the lives of Polygamists and was fascinating. I really liked the character of the 4th wife and poor Rusty. The main character was pretty sad and had a terrible life and devistating things happen to him throughout. But the book also had a dark humor to it that I really appreciated. I was intimidated by how thick it was, but it was a quick read and I would recommend it!
Jenners26 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Brief Description: Golden Richards has four wives, 28 children and a struggling construction business. If his life isn¿t already complicated enough, he is contemplating starting an affair. Trish, one of Golden¿s newest wives and unable to conceive any children with him, begins to wonder if polygamy is the right choice for her and her daughter from a previous marriage. Rusty, one of the middle children in a family where almost everyone is a middle child, struggles to stand out in a family where it is easy to get lost. The voices of Golden, Trish and Rusty weave together throughout this book to provide a multi-faceted view of a polygamist lifestyle from the view of the husband, a wife and one of the children.My Thoughts: This book has the magic combination of elements that I look for in a novel: a sense of humor (often leaning toward the dark side) mixed with tragedy and heartbreak and the ability to illuminate a type of lifestyle that is unfamiliar to me. Although the title of the book sounds like an oxymoron, Brady Udall effectively conveys how the life of a polygamist could be incredibly isolating and lonely. The loneliness that drives Golden to have an affair felt completely believable to me, and I found myself rooting for him! But Udall makes a genius decision to bring in the voices of Trish and Rusty to counterbalance Golden¿s perspective. I felt for all of them and was so involved in their lives that, even though the book is 624 pages long, I wasn¿t ready to leave at the end. Although many parts of the novel are very funny (particularly one scene with some lost gum), Udall gives his characters real pain and problems too, which keeps them grounded in the real world. This was a wondrous read, and I would highly recommend it. If you are concerned with how it portrays a polygamist lifestyle, I¿d have to say that I thought Udall¿s depiction felt realistic, complicated, and multi-layered (as I imagine it might be).
LynnB on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It's the title that grabbed me with this book. I've thought of polygamists as misguided (at best) and abusive to women and children at worst. But never as lonely.Enter Golden Richards, husband to four women and father to 28 children. Golden has drifted into his life. At first, his mother was firmly in coltrol of his life; then his father and finally his first wife Beverly rules the show. Golden is lonely -- unconnected with anyone -- and has fallen in love for the first time in his life with a woman he meets through his out-of-state job. But, Golden is not only person in this book who is lonely. The author uses the scene of a large, polygamist family to highlight the loneliness of Trish (wife #4) and Rusty (aged 11, one of seven children of the third wife, Rose). He provides a perspective of isolation and connectedness that is thought-provoking.The book is very entertaining, and often funny. While most of the family members are just part of the background, the portraits of Golden, his wives and several children, notably Rusty and Faye, are well drawn. These are complex characters facing everyday problems made more difficult by their chosen lifestyle.
OneMorePage on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A long, long, LONG boring book about a man who finds himself married to three women and the father of more than 20 children. It is also about how a family this big forms gangs and bullies those that don't conform to their way of living.I thought this book would never end.
parkermazk on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Personally could not make it through the book. I was so bored that I finally gave up on it. I have a friend who loved it but this was just not for me.
somegirl on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I have mixed feelings about this one. I loved Rusty and his story, and I quite liked Trish and her story. However, they're co-stars; Golden is the main character and thus gets the bulk of the book, and I was never fully invested in him or as interested as would have liked to be. I found him sympathetic enough, and in a broad sense I *did* find his story interesting -- it certainly got me thinking about polygamy and polygamist men from a different point of view than I have before. But even so, I found myself often skimming a bit through the Golden-focused chapters and hoping a Rusty chapter would come soon. Since the book is called "The Lonely Polygamist" rather than "The Lonely Plyg Kid," that makes it a little disappointing. And, although I never contemplated quitting (I am not afraid to quit a book that isn't working for me), I did feel like I had been reading it kind of forever! Even if a book IS long, it shouldn't FEEL long.
saramllr on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I can't decide if I liked this one or not. The writing was excellent and kept me reading on, but the story fell a little bit flat for me. The glimpse inside of a polygamist family was interesting, but I could not relate to ANY of the characters. As a matter of fact, I found myself wanting to slap some sense into a couple of them. Not for everyone, but I'm glad I made it through the whole thing.
ThePaxtonian on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Lonely Polygamist is a fascinating look at a "plyg's" (polygamist's) life in Utah. Golden Richards is the polygamist, lonely despite having 4 wives, 3 households, and 28 children. Golden is a loving if distracted father; when he can, he takes time to play with his kids, and we learn of his unrelenting grief at losing daughter Glory in an accident for which he feels responsible. Golden is a large, bumbling, socially awkward man, but this reader had great sympathy for him. He tries but often fails to keep all wives happy, while also trying to keep his construction business afloat and manage 3 households and a handful of rental properties. While Golden struggles to keep his dysfunctional family going, it¿s really the sister-wives who rule the roost. Beverly is wife number 1; she lives in the Old House and she¿s in charge. Rose-of-Sharon and Nola live with their children in the Big House; and wife number 4, Trish, lives with her only daughter in a run-down condo. We hear much of the story from Trish who once had a life outside polygamy. Trish and Golden¿s first child was stillborn and Trish longs for more children. She and daughter Faye are largely alone together in the quiet condo, away from the chaos of the other houses, and all Trish wants is some attention from her husband.Golden has a construction job in Nevada, far from home¿a secret job at a brothel. While living away from home in his Airstream trailer, Golden meets a beautiful, mysterious woman, Huila. They develop a chaste and careful relationship; he confesses that he has ¿a wife and kids (five)¿ at home. Golden falls in love with Huila and she with him. Unfortunately, Huila is the mistreated wife of Ted Leo, the brothel owner for whom Golden is currently working. Ted Leo is a wannabe thug and doesn¿t take kindly to the news that Golden and Huila are having an affair. The ¿affair,¿ such as it is, consists of lots of talking and some kissing on Golden¿s old couch that sits out in the Nevada desert next to his trailer.Rusty is the family misfit: it's hard to imagine how a 12-year-old boy with more than two dozen siblings could be lonely, but Rusty is desperately lonely, just like his father was as a child and is now. Early in the book, we learn of Golden's early life in Louisiana, with an often-absent father and a depressed mother; he sat at his bedroom window, watching and waiting for his father to come home after another months-long absence. Rusty, too, sits in his bedroom window and waits for his father to come home and pay some attention to him. It never happens: parental attention is hard to come by in the Richards' households. The one person who is kind to Rusty and pays attention is Trish. Rusty has a prepubescent crush on Trish. Eventually Rusty meets another loner, June Haymaker, a handyman, inventor, and all-around good guy who likes to make fireworks and blow things up. Rusty introduces June to Trish, and June helps to fix things up around her house and stays for dinner. Trish falls in love with June, and Rusty gets jealous.Things come to a head when Ted Leo fires Golden; he hitches up his trailer and heads back to Utah, only to discover that Huila hitched a ride in the trailer having stolen money from her creep of a husband. Ted Leo sends his thugs to retrieve Huila and punish Golden, but the thugs fail. Golden keeps Huila safe in various places and sneaks off to see her in the middle of the night. One night, Rusty, watching at the window, sees his father with a mysterious woman at the vacant house next door. He makes a ¿bomb¿ from materials stolen from June Haymaker following instructions in a book he stole from June¿s workshop. He creeps over to the house next door when next he sees his father visiting the mysterious lady friend. Unfortunately the neighbor¿s ostrich escapes and gets involved, and Rusty¿s improvised explosive device explodes in his face, seriously injuring him. This tragedy brings the entire family together around Rusty¿s hospital bed in L
ufjunkie on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Golden Richards may have four wives and twenty-eight children, but he's a lonely man. So lonely, in fact, that he can't help but fall in love for the first time in his life. But he's not the only one in the immense family to feel isolated. Trish, wife #4, is also terribly lonesome and buries herself in romantic novels. And despite the fact that eleven-year-old Rusty is surrounded by siblings, he cannot find a single person - either adult or child - with whom to connect. The Lonely Polygamist may be a study in human isolation, but the story itself is hilarious. In the tradition of authors such as John Irving and Richard Russo, Brady Udall does a remarkable job of entertaining the reader. He describes outrageous incidents that could only happen in a family as large as the Richards'. After reading the book, it will be impossible to ever think of chewing gum in the same way. The protagonist Golden Richards, could have been depicted as an exploiter of women and children, but instead, he is a sympathetic character. Although he's let his family down by not giving them the love and attention they need, the reader can sympathize with his plight. He, like the other members of his family, is a victim of circumstance. The one flaw in the story is the ending. I was very frustrated by the decisions that some of the characters made. The members of the Richards clan seemed trapped in their desperate lives and unable to escape, even when given the opportunity. Although, after reading the book and getting to know the characters, it doesn't seem likely that the book could end any other way.
melmmo on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Beautiful writing. But the story? The first half of the book was dreadfully boring. I almost quit reading but something kept me going. It picked up interest around two-thirds to three-quarters of the way through. But at the end, I realized there was not one thing happy about the book. There was a little bit of humor, but I walked away with a feeling of emptiness, loneliness, sadness, and despair. None of the good things that could have happened, that were alluded to, happened. None of the characters were likable. I wanted to grab ahold of several of them and wring their necks. I wanted to shake them and scream "What are you doing?" All of this feeling happened at or after the two-thirds mark of the book, but I suppose that that kind of emotion could be elicited, says something about the success of the writing. I just wish the book were about half as long (and I think by now you can guess which half I wish were cut), and maybe throw in one positive event to soothe the reader's soul and assuage the unrelenting sadness.
lyzadanger on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Brady Udall is trying to stay out of the way. His new novel is about a Fundamentalist paterfamilias with 28 kids and 4 wives, naively blundering into motley hijinx and hatching adolescent longings for the boss' wife, backing himself into a web of lies and an imminent family showdown that builds up for most of the book's nearly 600 pages.In a world with so many characters and so much potential for emotional damage, Udall steers the narrative ship by removing himself from the thread: the momentum of the whirling plot creates its own little galaxy and he remains predominantly hands-off with his three main narrators (Golden, the patriarch; Rusty, the uncharismatic and totally sympathetic, ignored kid; Trish, the youngest and most, frankly, dull of the wives).Of course, this is fiction, so beyond noting the naturalistic style of writing, claiming that Udall is not present is fallacious. But what he bends backwards to do, with eerie success, is the avoidance of even the literary equivalent of an subtle eyebrow raising: never once does the remotest sense of moral judgment leak into the book that isn't a product of a specific character's outlook.Thus, the jostlings of the 28 offspring and the drama of the competition between the four wives just unfolds, without much intrusive commentary.The parts of the story that draw one in, though, are the parts where Udall is present. The juxtaposition of the family's formation in Utah--the bulk of the action takes place in the 1970s, but has tentacles reaching back earlier--against the nearby atomic bomb tests is surreal and vivid, even if the ultimate outcome is a bit heavy-handed. There are some nice passages about grief and duty, and Udall keeps enough plotty curveballs zinging to keep things moving.The plight of Rusty, middling and forgotten child, is borderline heartrending in the chapters where Udall lets himself get involved. Here's a kid whose father barely knows his name, who is weird and lonely, starting to self-destruct at the age of 11. The other siblings, who get a rather distant treatment (then again, there are 27 of them, and giving them all a solid dose of humanity might be an impossibility), seem infuriatingly average and well-adjusted, even given their various infirmities.And then there's Golden, the hub of all of this, whose main characteristic is his lack of much personality and physical heft. He's left grappling with various crises that tend to come to a head at rather deus ex machina moments (perhaps purposeful in their divine intervention feel). It feels more like things are happening to Golden than anything, he doesn't seem like an active force as much as a passive one. 'How lovely to sit under the lowering sky, the dead grass whisking his ankles, with springtime coming on and a feeling in his heart of imminent disaster.'It is this sense of dread and a forthcoming battle that ties much of the book together. Raymond, a neighbor's insane ostrich, watches over the family trysts and tragedies. In dire straits, Golden fights the bird in an absurd desperation, not unlike Jacob wrestling the angel. Children die and radioactive fallout sears lives. Golden's construction business atrophies; his job site is a brothel, not the old folks' home he claims to his sundry wives and associates. It's an organic, glorious mess that has nowhere to go but woe.The climax is a wallop. Perhaps it had to happen this way: something massive had to give for there to be redemption for so many lives. The Lonely Polygamist is a long, sinuous trip through the valley of death and back again. With a (possibly) supernatural ostrich to boot.
mlwl on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I am NOT impressed. I'll probably finish this book one day, but that day isn't soon. I love literary fiction, but when I'm on page 170 and NOTHING has happened, it's no longer literary fiction... it's rambling. One might argue that this is a character-driven plot, but I disagree. It's a lot of characterization with zero plot. When I do finish the book, I'll amend this review, but for now, it's getting tossed to the bottom of the pile.
samfsmith on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An outstanding novel ¿ if this doesn¿t win a major award this year I will be very surprised. It examines in detail a family of one husband, four wives, and twenty-eight or so children. The father is stretched too thin, economically and emotionally, and is lying to his wives and on the verge of having an affair ¿ as odd as that may seem. Wife #4 and son #5 are followed closely as well, giving the reader a fascinating glimpse into the psychology of a poly-family.But it is the humor that really makes the novel stand out. It¿s the humor of awkward situations and unintended consequences, the type where you just can¿t believe that happened, but are totally convinced it could have. The humor is mixed with pathos and tragedy, which makes it all the more real.It¿s a fascinating novel, perfect for a book club or discussion group. A real page turner too, with unexpected twists and turns and an ending that is real and not manipulative or saccharine. Highly recommended.
barefeet4 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The multiple narrators made the book seem a little bit scattered. The ending pulled all the different storylines together but I spent most of the book wondering if all of the components were really necessary (I'm still not sure the short chapters by the omniscient narrator were integral to the plot). I felt like some aspects of Golden't character were a little unbelieveable, but I liked that his transformation at the end wasn't complete; he still second guessed himself and didn't completely take control of the family. Despite these criticisms I enjoyed the book. Overall it was well written and the numerous characters were comlex and realistic.
justablondemoment on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I was looking forward to reading this book and was thrilled to have won it thru LTER which, btw, is a wonderful program. This book was a little different from other books dealing with this subject . I found it very engaging and found myself wanting to know more and more getting totally swept up in the lives of this family. The author did an excellent job making it real. The only thing for me that kept it from a 5 star book was the length. After reading it I felt depleated like I needed a vacation. I got that emotionally invested in their lives. It was just very draining...excellent book but this to me would have served better as a series.
Berly on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I loved this book! It is in turn funny, moving and devastating. I don't really like the idea of second wives (even though I could use the extra pair of hands!); but I did enjoy the look behind the curtain into the life of this plural marriage and family. The father, Golden, has a failing business, four wives and 28 children, a mistress, a child who dies, an ostrich for a neighbor and gum stuck in a most unusual place. Oh yeah, and then there is a brothel and government nuclear testing. All of this fits together in a yarn that is heart-warming, illuminating, and told with grace, wit and tenderness."During his years in the church Golden had noticed that most of the polygamists he had come to know were honest, upright men. He had always believed this was because they lived according to their convictions, but now he was starting to suspect it was something else entirely: being a dishonest polygamist was an exceptionally difficult trick to pull off. If you told a lie to one wife, you were going to have to repeat it to all of them. And they all asked questions, of course, each of which had to be answered consistently and with the correct details in the correct order because you could be darn sure that afterward, like a bunch of dogged television police detectives investigating a capital murder case, they would get together and compare notes. It didn't take long to come to the conclusion that telling the truth--painful and inconvenient as it might be--was the only sensible option."Which made Golden wonder: How had he managed to last this long?"A favorite book this year.
verbafacio on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
For whatever reason, I find books about Mormon polygamists fascinating. The intricate, complicated balance found in a household with multiple wives and often dozens of children is amazing and full of opportunity for drama. Brady Udall's The Lonely Polygamist certainly lived up to expectations. Udall has created a large but for the most part not dysfunctional polygamist family headed by Golden Richards. Despite four wives and dozens of children, Golden is lost in the chaos of those around him. He sets out to escape some of the everyday hassle by taking a construction job building a brothel in Nevada. There he meets yet another woman, throwing everything he thought he understood into disorder.The Lonely Polygamist is a family drama, but more farcical than serious. Udall's tone and the absurdities of Golden's life read like something from Carl Hiassen or even Tom Robbins. If these authors appeal to you, you will love this book. I am not a huge Hiassen or Robbins fan, but there was enough in this book to keep me reading through the 500+ pages. The Londely Polygamist is populated with unforgettable, at times heartbreaking characters. Long after you forget the names of most of Golden's wives and children, you will still be touched by both Rusty (Son # 5) and Trish (Wife #4).
Mmccullough on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Why does Golden, a Mormon with four wives and more than twenty children, feel so alone in the world? This epic novel delves into the psyche of several of the children and all of the wives, interweaving their thoughts and personalities into Golden's life, his dreams, his attempts at escaping, even if temporarily, from the family. Many of the characters are well-drawn and keep the reader interested in continuing. The huge old couch that keeps re-appearing in the story is a metaphor for Golden. He can't quite leave, feels worn down, is physically large, feels the weight of the world on his shoulders, and isn't sure what to do next.
KimLarae on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Well written, and interesting for first 100 pages. But begins to feel tired.