Reading in 2010: The 19th Wife

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If you know me (and I think most of my readers do :)) then you may (or may not?) know that I enjoy three distinct types of subject matter when it comes to books: Chinese adoption, the Holocaust, and polygamy. I know, it’s a strange combination, but that’s just how I roll.

Anyway, I’d like to introduce you all to my first full read of the year-The 19th Wife.

As you may (or maybe not?) have guessed, this one is about polygamy. It’s two stories in one -my favorite kind! First, it’s the story of a teenage boy who is trying to help his mother clear her name. She has been arrested for the murder of her husband. She was his 19th wife-living in the polygamous fundamental Morman community of Mesadale, UT. This part is a regular who-done-it murder mystery. Secondly, the story is a memoir of Ann Eliza Webb Young, the 19th wife of Brigham Young. Actually, by true counts she was probably more like #50. Crazy. She divorced him and was instrumental in getting the United States government to make polygamy against the law. Also, thanks in part to her efforts, the Morman church officially changed its stance on polygamy, which led to the split between the fundamentals and the main Morman church.

Overall, I liked the book. I was much more intrigued with the memoir section than I was with the murder mystery. At points, I felt like the present day story was getting in the way-I just wanted more of the historical. But, in the end, I could see how they fit together nicely. I read all the author’s notes at the end too. The entire book is a work of fiction, although the author did a countless amount of research and reading on Ann Eliza and tried to accurately tell her story. Ann Eliza’s story also ends in mystery-although once a very famous nationally-known speaker, no one knows what happened to her. Perhaps she was murdered by Brigham’s men, or perhaps she died of old age? No one, not even her sons, know what happened to Ann Eliza.