Thursday, November 11, 2010

The 19th Wife - David Ebershoff

This review comes to us from the lovely Jeannette Katzir, author of Broken Birds, The Story of My Momila, a memoir about the enduring effects of war.  As she writes about  her parent's harrowing experiences during the Holocaust to her own personal battles, she exposes the maladies of heart and mind, that those broken by war inevitably and unintentionally pass down to the generations that follow.  Read our review here.  Thanks, Jeannette, for your review!

You can also read another review from one of our LDS (Mormon) guest reviewers.

Summary:  Faith, I tell them, is a mystery, elusive to many, and never easy to explain.

Sweeping and lyrical, spellbinding and unforgettable, David Ebershoff’s The 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.  (Summary and Image from )

My Review:  The 19th Wife, by David Ebershoff, is a book about multiple marriages, a faction of Mormonism and murder. I have to admit that the idea of one man with many wives has always caused me reason to wonder WHY? Sure, it's great for the man, but what about the women?

The 19th Wife escorts you into this world. The murder is a vehicle that takes you through the book. The murder, which is being pinned on the 19th Wife, and the reintroduction of a THROWN AWAY son is a very quiet, back story. The main plot, the thrust of the story, and the reason I could not put it down, is because of the Mormonism.

The book explains the creation and evolution of Mormonism. It explained the premise behind one man/many women. I understand that mainstream Mormons do not practice this marriage arrangement, but as a fan of the television show; Big Love, I found the book fascinating.

My Rating: 4 stars.

Sum it up: I would say it is an intriguing book, well written and very interesting, and the story behind the murder is great also.


treen said...

"The book explains the creation and evolution of Mormonism."

This sentence makes me want to beat my head against a wall. No novel, ever, is going to explain anything at all about the "creation and evolution" of my religion. But the text very well could be phrased in a way that makes people THINK that it explains Mormonism.

So thank you, author, for making my life even more difficult in explaining my faith and religious structure to friends who belong to other churches. Because it wasn't hard enough as it is.

Jeannette Katzir said...

I am not the author. I am only a reader and have nothing at all against Mormons and their faith. I only have an issue with that tiny minute odd sect that bring children into a world of chaos.

treen said...

I apologize for being defensive, but I'm currently in a series of conversations with a Baptist friend about Mormon beliefs. Wading through the debris that she has read about Mormons and correcting misunderstandings is exhausting. So your line saying this book explained the origins of Mormonism hit an extremely raw nerve.

If this particular friend ever gets a hold of this book (I will certainly not be recommending it to her), I can just hear the avalanche of challenges to my faith if she had the same impression that you got, about the novel explaining things. And for that, I blame the author, not you as the reviewer.

Jeannette Katzir said...

Are you sure that your friend is even a friend. I am a Jewish atheist and I have friends of many denominations that might not agree with me, but understand and accept my beliefs or lack thereof. When my children asked me whether I believed in god or not, I told them that what I did or didn't had no impact on their beliefs. Religion is the one special thing that belongs to you alone. You can change your mind minute to minute and no one can tell you you are wrong. Tell your friend to get a life!

Sally T. said...

I have to say, as a member of the mainstream LDS church, this review made me cringe too. The author isn't LDS, Ann Eliza Young was very anti-Mormon during/after her divorce from Brigham Young, and this is a FICTIONAL work. It's like saying you understand the beginnings of the Catholic church after reading The Da Vinci code, or Henry the VIII after reading The Other Boelyn Girl. I don't feel like a book written to entertain should be read as if it presents facts about any religion or person - nonfiction, such as biographies, diaries, and historical accounts should be consulted to gain any kind of true understanding.

MindySue said...

We recognize and appreciate the diverse opinions of our readers and would LOVE to have a variety of perspectives on this book. If you have read it and would like to do a guest review please contact me, Mindy (see sidebar).

I'm LDS and would love to know what an LDS person, who has read it, thinks of the book.


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