Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The 19th Wife

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

Last year, I read Escape by Carolyn Jessop.  The account of a woman who fled Zion with her children to escape her life as a polygamist wife.  I was shocked by the down hearted tone of the book and the rampant child abuse.  It was the kind of story that after putting it down, any mother would shake her head and think "that's just not okay".  The Fundamentalist LDS' have been in the news off and on since then, as Warren Jeffs goes through trial.  It's hard to imagine what a life in a polygamist community like that is like. 

The 19th Wife was an easier book to read for me.  Maybe because I knew that parts of it were fiction, or that in general it presented the broader picture of what life was like and how polygamy came to be in the Latter Day Saints.  It is a historical fiction novel by David Ebershoff, detailing the life of Ann Eliza Young from birth into a polygamist family through her very public divorce to Brigham Young.  It also combines a modern day murder mystery centered on a high ranking polygamist family.  The 19th Wife was the kind of book I couldn't put down.  And when I finished the last page I wanted to know more.  I wanted to know which parts were fact and which were the fiction added in.  I found myself spouting off "Did you know...." questions to anyone who would listen to them.  For instance, did you know that Joseph Smith was only 39 when he died?  And that the jail where he was being held was stormed in the night and he and his brother Hyrum were shot to death?  And that is why/how Brigham Young became the leader of the church?

I think this book might make it into my top 5 favorites for this year.

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