Thursday, February 23, 2012

The 19th Wife

Author: David Ebershoff

Goodreads rating: 3.58
My Rating: 4/5 Stars
Pages: 514 

I'm not too sure why I decided that I wanted to read this book. Part of it probably has to do with the fact that I have a Mormon cousin and the fact that I used to watch Big Love. I think the other part of it was pure curiosity of Polygamy and the relationships. It was a slow, but fascinating read at times, other times I just wanted it to be over.

Synopses from

Faith, I tell them, is a mystery, elusive to many, and never easy to explain.
Sweeping and lyrical, spellbinding and unforgettable, David Ebershoff’sThe 19th Wife combines epic historical fiction with a modern murder mystery to create a brilliant novel of literary suspense. 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 exquisite 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. 
My review after the jump!

I flipped back and forth while reading this book. There were times when I really liked the two stories, one of Ann Eliza and Jordan Scott, and then there were times when I was purely confused by the flip flop. This book went the path of two parallel stories, but I felt that the appropriate way to do that would be a set number of chapters on one story and then the same number of chapters on the other, that way you could flip between the two stories, knowing that "Oh, after this chapter its back to Jordan's story" or something like that instead it would be once chapter of Jordan's story and then 6 chapters of Ann Eliza's. I felt confused and annoyed at times.

Something else that threw me was in Ann Eliza's section it wasn't her story alone, there was a wikipedia article (Which I felt was just wrong and it grated on my nerves a little) and there were letters and information about a girl doing her masters thesis on Ann Eliza. Some of that information had me wanting to just skip the pages (and I will admit that I skimmed especially the letter from her son, Lorenzo, to someone who was researching Ann Eliza and he kept going off about dolphins-lovely creatures, but you are doing 100% of nothing to further the plot and are therefore a waste of space).

I did enjoy how each of the characters seemed to be their own person. There was Johnny who was the crude teenager that was exiled from Mesadale, Tom who was the still devout gay Morman who drove to Vegas just to go to church, and Jordan who was a skeptic about everything. At times it was hard to remember that Jared was my age- only 20- when he tried to save his mom. It's hard to think about what I would have done had I been abandoned as a teenager and how I would have survived, but I didn't have to thank god.

What I found so interesting about Ann Eliza's account was how she looked at the multiple marriages. She had two different views of it, not just being a multiple wife but also as the daughter of someone who did no want sister wives. I think that the bitterness that her mother- although devout- rubbed off on her. I couldn't imagine how it couldn't, because I would never want to share my boyfriend ever, let alone my husband and father of my children. Ann Eliza makes a point when she says that religious freedom comes at the cost of the freedom of these women and children who don't get the full love and attention of their fathers and husbands.

I gave this book a higher rating than a three per say because I enjoyed Ann Eliza's story (when it was actually her story being told) and I liked reading about Jordan and his adventures. The beginning was a little hard to follow because for the first 5 to 10 pages, we have no idea who our narrator was or what his sex was and when he talked about Elektra- he didn't right away identify her as his dog which was also very confusing, but once you fell into rhythm with the characters and the style it was easy to get used to.

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