Monday, October 27, 2008

Review: The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff

Book: The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: A

A couple of months ago I was asked to be part of the blog tour for this book, The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff. As soon as I understood what it was about, I was instantly nervous. But, I decided that was okay and that I was up for the challenge!

Why would I be nervous you might ask? Being Mormon, and having polygamy in my family history, it hits a little close to home! But I was curious and wanted to see how the book handled this delicate yet interesting topic, and besides, I was interested as to how I would react.

First, a little summary of the book. It actually flips back and forth between two different stories and settings that happen to mesh a bit together in the end. One story is about one of the wives (perhaps his 19th) of Brigham Young, Ann Eliza Webb, her background and history and how, in the end, she divorces him and leaves the Mormon church. This part of the story was told using all sorts of documents, such as biographies, autobiographies, letters, speeches, songs, ads, school papers, etc. I loved this! However, it made me forget that I was reading a fictional novel and felt more like I was reading an actual historical account. But, it's important to keep in mind that this is fiction. The author explains this fact in detail in an author's note at the end of the book.

The second story takes place in the current day and follows the story of a young man, Jordan Scott, who years before had been kicked out of his polygamy family and FLDS (or Firsts as they are called in this book) community. His mom, who is also a 19th wife, has been accused of killing his dad... one of the leaders of their community. When he visits her and she says she didn't do it, he starts a quest to find out what really happened.

My reaction to the book, as you may guess, was mixed. On one hand, I totally enjoyed the story. It is gripping and fascinating. The writing style drew me in and grabbed me right from the start. I liked the use of all the different mediums to tell the story of Ann Eliza. I loved the characters and cared about them and rooted for them. It was fan easy- to-read, even if it was long, page turner.

On the other hand, I squirmed as nearly every single controversial thing that's ever happened regarding the Mormon church was brought up. I hated seeing how Brigham Young was portrayed, though I do agree he had some major issues. I didn't like the stereotypical portrayal of current day Mormons being all "hick town." Though at least they are helpful and nice to Jordan and come across somewhat intelligently in the end.

Also, I could have done without the homosexual relationship and all the curse words. But that's just me I guess. And yes, it does give the reader a better connection to these particular characters and gives personality to their voice. But still.

Anyway, so there you have it. My honest and true reaction to this book! I loved the writing and the story... but the subject was hard, though interesting, for me to read.

As part of the blog tour, the author David Ebershoff, has agreed to do a guest post. That will be up tomorrow, so come back then and check it out!

For other reviews, see these previous stops on the tour:

Wednesday, Oct. 15th:
Maw Books
Friday, Oct. 17th:
Reading, ‘Riting, and Retirement
Monday, Oct. 20th:
She Is Too Fond Of Books
Tuesday, Oct. 21st:
Age 30 - A Year in Books
Thursday, Oct. 23rd:
A High and Hidden Place

Upcoming stops on the tour not to miss:

Tuesday, Oct. 28th:
Musings of a Bookish Kitty
Thursday, Oct. 30th:
Books on the Brain
Monday, Nov. 3rd:
The Cottage Nest
Tuesday, Nov. 4th:
B&B ex libris
Wednesday, Nov. 5th:
Thursday, Nov. 6th:
The Tome Traveller
Friday, Nov. 7th:
Educating Petunia
Monday, Nov. 10th:
The Literate Housewife
Wednesday, Nov. 12th:
Diary of an Eccentric
Friday, Nov. 14th:
Book Chase


  1. Sounds very interesting...but I'm not sure I want to read it.

  2. I enjoyed reading your review very much! I think an author always takes a risk when using real historical figures in writing fiction--an even bigger one when using religious figures. I couldn't help but wonder what my Mormon friends would think of the historical portrayals as I read this book.

    Like you, I really enjoyed the two stories and am so glad for the opportunity to read this book.

  3. Thanks for the honest review. It sounds like an interesting book that raises a lot of questions and topics for discussion. Looking forward to the guest post! This book is up next for me to read for my Nov. 12 tour date. Can't wait to start it!

    Diary of an Eccentric



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