Book Review: The 19th Wife

The 19th Wife
Author: David Ebershoff
Genre: Fiction/Mystery + Historical Fiction
Number of Pages: 544
Where I Got It: Library

First Line: "In the one year since I renounced my Mormon faith and set out to tell the nation the truth about American polygamy, many people have wondered why I ever agreed to become a plural wife."

David Ebershoff juxtaposes two stories in his third novel: that of Ann Eliza Young, who became Brigham Young's 19th wife in 1875 then set about trying to bring down the institution of polygamy and that of a modern murder mystery set in a polygamous compound in Utah.

I read "Under the Banner of Heaven" last year which prompted a curiosity in polygamy and Mormon fundamentalists. This book was just okay for me though.  The story of Ann Eliza was told really well and really differently as Ebershoff used all different formats to tell her story: Wikipedia pages, academic research papers, newspaper opinion pieces from the years when she was traveling the country telling her story. It was a very interesting look into how she broke away from the church and fought for the rights of the wives and children in these plural marriages when it was all so new and so strictly controlled by Brigham Young.

But the second part of the story, the fictional mystery part, left much to be desired. The story wasn't very developed and a good 3/4 of the book was dedicated to Ann Eliza's story anyway, so suddenly you're back into this murder mystery for just a few pages before being taken back to 1875. The book would have been so much better for me if it was just about Ann Eliza told via all the different formats.

 Overall Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Coming Up Next: "Dragonfly in Amber" by Diana Gabaldon (on Kindle)
The second book in Diana Gabaldon's "Outlander" series, "Dragonfly in Amber" continues with the story of Claire Beauchamp and Jamie Fraser who met in the first novel when Claire traveled back in time to 18th century Scotland.  The year is now 1968 and Claire is trying to learn what happened to Jamie since returning to the present day and leaving him behind.

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