Every once in a while I read a book that is so very good I just can’t keep quiet about it. This past week I started – and finished – “The 19th Wife” by David Ebershoff. As many of you know, I am especially interested in books that have some kind of a religious theme in them, and this particular book does. Here, the religion is the Latter-Day Saints.
The book is a novel through and through, although as you read it you have to remind yourself of that fact. There are actually two stories running side by side. One is the life story of Brigham Young’s 19th Wife, Ann Eliza Young, who was the only one of his many wives who filed for divorce. She and the divorce really existed but the story is fiction. Along side her story is one in a modern-day setting, with events happening when a young teenaged boy, a member of the fundamentalist sect of polygamous Mormons, is taken outside his city limits and dropped off on a highway by his mother. He is being banished because of his purported involvement with a young girl against the wishes of the town fathers. This too is a fictionalized story, but you all have probably been following in the newspaper the events in the real fundamentalist communities and know that such communities still exist.
The writer of this book keeps his storylines straight, though intertwined; it is not difficult to read and switch back and forth with them. The stories themselves are so fascinating that you simply can’t put the book down.
In case you are not sure whether it would interest you, I suggest going to the Barnes and Noble website and doing a search for “The 19th Wife.” You will find detailed reviews and you can tell from that if you think you might want to read it. But just today I found this article in a Salt Lake City newspaper that pertains to the fundamentalist young boys who leave those communities. Take a peek here, and reading it will help you see just how relevant this novel is: