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The Lonely Polygamist

The Lonely Polygamist

3.7 154
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 ChronicleGolden 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


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

Editorial Reviews

Miami Herald
“A thick, transporting, critically hailed novel from which you emerge, blinking but sated, into the real world.”
The New Yorker
“A wry, sympathetic portrait of a spectacularly dysfunctional family.”
Wendy Smith - Washington Post
“An audacious and frequently funny new novel.”
Salt Lake Tribune
“[A] compelling, rollicking story.”
Dallas Morning News
“An absorbing, moving entertaining novel that will transport the reader into Golden’s chaotic world.”
Entertainment Weekly
“A riveting emotional tornado of a novel.”
Cleveland Plain Dealer
“A profoundly satisfying read, written with a ferocious verve and authenticity.”
San Francisco Chronicle
“There's something cinematic about the way Udall presents this tale, with at least a handful of dramatic scenes that seem to beg for a big-screen treatment. Furthermore, Udall's poetic rendering of the Southwestern landscape brings to mind the lingering, panoramic shots of films like Brokeback Mountain and A River Runs Through It. But most of all it's Golden, Rusty and the novel's other complex characters that make The Lonely Polygamist a potential classic. They remain with the reader after the last page is turned.”
Eric Weinberger - The New York Times Book Review
“Funny [and] moving, [The Lonely Polygamist] is ambitious and it is tender about man’s endless absurdities and failings.”
Pam Houston
“What is so great about this unflinching, superbly crafted, big hearted novel is the way it makes us recognize the polygamist(and sister wife) in all of us. Golden Richards' struggles and desires are no different from ours, he just has them in multiples of four. His story not only demystifies and humanizes polygamist culture, it takes a dramatic stand on behalf of families everywhere—from the most conservative to the most alternative—and suggests a way to foreground, amidst all our failings, the rare moment of success.”
Hannah Tinti
“The Lonely Polygamist cracks open the door to plural marriage and lets in the light. Brady Udall explores the Richards family with the greatest care and humor, building memorable characters that readers will immediately love. Funny and wise, The Lonely Polygamist stands with other great family novels such as The Corrections and Middlesex, and sets Udall on the top shelf of America’s writers.”
Bonnie Jo Campbell
“This is big-hearted American storytelling, the best new book I’ve read in years.”
Alan Cheuse - All Things Considered
“The novelist’s affection for his protagonist and sensitivity to his domestic despair yields characters and scenes that are precise and unfailingly rewarding. [Udall] has that gift for writing sinuous and convincing sentences that convey his affection without compromising clarity or truth.”
Eric Weinberger
It is funny, it can be moving, it is ambitious and it is tender about man's endless absurdities and failings…Sometimes, reading The Lonely Polygamist, one wishes the author had a little less respect, but then the book might be that much less charming.
—The New York Times
Wendy Smith
In Brady Udall's audacious, frequently funny new novel, the polygamous patriarch is just a poor, henpecked schmo…Udall's blunt, empathetic portrait paints the polygamist as a beleaguered and bewildered Everyman. Golden can't keep his three households from warring with one another, let alone make their inhabitants happy…Telling a story that perpetually unsettles our expectations, Udall whipsaws between moods and roves among points of view.
—The Washington Post
Library Journal
Udall's long-awaited novel (after The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint) depicts a lively, humorous, and sometimes tragic picture of Golden Richards, his four demanding wives, and his 28 children. They are an unruly Mormon clan, scattered among three separate houses in rural Utah. Richards, a hapless graying contractor with a limp and a sinus condition, supports them with his less-than-successful construction business. To avoid bankruptcy, he takes a job in Nevada, a project he tells everyone is a senior citizens' home but in fact it is a bordello. That's only one of Golden's secrets. The sister wives hold weekly summits to schedule Golden's visits from wife to wife, house to house. He doesn't have a home of his own, so he frequently takes refuge in a playhouse built for a daughter who died in a tragic accident. In trying to help, he often makes things worse, but he valiantly makes one last effort to bring harmony to his fractious family. VERDICT Udall observes with a keen eye for the ridiculous while showing compassion. Think of the zany theatrics of Carl Hiaasen paired with the family drama of Elizabeth Berg. Enthusiastically recommended—Donna Bettencourt, Mesa Cty. P.L., Grand Junction, CO
Kirkus Reviews
Unhappy families are different, quoth Leo Tolstoy-even when they're headed by the same patriarch, the situation from which Udall's (The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint, 2001, etc.) latest unfolds. "There's hard things we have to do in this life," says a wizened desert rat to an existentially confused Golden Richards, the protagonist. "We bite our lip and do 'em. And we pray to God to help us along the way." Golden is in need of such guiding words. At 48, he calls three houses home, each of them stuffed full of children. Things aren't going well out in the world that he's unsuccessfully tried to keep at bay; his construction business is mired in recession, and he's working in Nevada, far away from the comforts of home(s). To complicate matters, Golden, though already blessed or burdened with three wives, has taken up with another woman, a fringe effect of which is that now he has a fondness for mescal. Golden's life occasions a series of hard choices and often-rueful meditations, and Udall smartly observes how each plays out. His novel opens with a tumultuous welter of children who, though tucked away in a remote corner of Utah, have access to all the media and know, aptly, what a zombie is. As Golden's saga progresses, he learns about the mysteries of such things as condoms (as a friend meaningfully says, "so you don't go fucking yourself out of a spot at the dinner table") and the endless difficulties and intrigues of family politics, with all their plots against the patriarchal throne. Udall layers on real history with the tragedy of atomic testing in the Southwestern deserts of old, and imagined tragedy with some of the unexpected losses Golden must endure. In the end, Udall's story hassome of the whimsy of John Nichols's The Milagro Beanfield War but all the complexity of a Tolstoyan or even Faulknerian production-and one of the most satisfying closing lines in modern literature, too. Fans of the HBO series Big Love will be pleased to see an alternate take on the multi-household problem, and lovers of good writing will find this a pleasure, period.
Publishers Weekly
Udall's dark comedy of polygamy and American anomie has as its protagonist, the overworked father and (polygamous) husband, Golden Richards. Surrounded by wives and children (so many that he occasionally has trouble remembering their names), Golden is nonetheless a solitary spirit, finding little companionship amid the hubbub of his multiple homes. Udall's nimble prose dances lightly between farce and tragedy, and David Aaron Baker's reading manages a similar feat. Comic episodes are suitably breezy and Baker's pace grows stately when faced with darkness, his reading slowing to a molasses crawl for heartrending moments like the loss of a child. A Norton hardcover (Reviews, Mar. 22). (May)
“One of the best novels I’ve read in a while . . . Golden Richards, middle-aged, 6-foot-6 polygamist with an overbite, is one of the most appealing, original, and brilliantly tragicomic protagonists to appear in American fiction in some time.”
“The Lonely Polygamist is a great American novel, perhaps the great American novel of the year.”
New West
“If you're looking for a big, funny, moving novel to read this spring, look no farther.”
Sexy Prime
“How often does The Great American Novel truly come along?”
Boise Weekly
“A rich, poignant look at a family whose lifestyle may seem absolutely aberrant, but for whom life’s issues are wholeheartedly normal.”
Associated Press Staff
“A brilliantly crafted mini-epic that is at turns hilarious, terrifying, and heartbreaking . . . Cinematic . . . A potential classic.”
“Terrifically thought-provoking . . . a constantly shifting but marvelously controlled story.”
Chicago Tribune
“Entertaining . . . very moving . . . Impressive.”
Rabih Alameddine
“The Lonely Polygamist is both an astounding feat and a sumptuous feast. This is the Second Coming of the Great American Novel. Or is it the Third? Who’s counting? Read this brilliant book.”
John Dufresne
“The Lonely Polygamist is a hefty, eager, and bittersweet novel, and it is a page-turner. Brady Udall deals with familial chaos, reckless behavior, and alarming pyrotechnics with wit, grace, and tenderness. He’s an enchanter who casts his spell with exquisite sentences and unerring, evocative details. Here is a writer of inordinate compassion and formidable intelligence. Read this remarkable novel, friend, live with it, and I promise you this, little Rusty Richards will haunt your dreams.”
The New York Times Book Review
“[An] exceptional tale of an exceptional family.”
Philadelphia Inquirer
“Uproarious . . . Udall’s storytelling [displays] ease and humor.”
Portland Oregonian
“I don’t know how true to life this story may be. But it feels right, and it reads beautifully and often hilariously, and I liked it an awful lot.”

Product Details

Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.30(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.30(d)

Meet 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. 154 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.
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This was one of those stories that i got completely lost in. The characters all seemed incredibly real and the story was heartwarming. It's long but it's definitely worth the read.
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This book was WAY to long. Brady expressed way to much on the main charter,but, I still had a vague feeling about him. Rusty was the star of the book. I read it but can't really get to enthustic about it.
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