Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The 19th Wife (4)

       So, here’s the thing. I am randomly picky about books and I have no idea why I like the ones I like. And this one, I liked. Not read in one sitting like The Hunger Games like, but I liked it nonetheless. I came back to it, even though I was busy and would kind of forget about it. But I actually had a conversation with someone about it that went like this.

            “What are you reading?”
            “The 19th Wife.”
            “Is it any good?”
            “I don’t know?”
            He laughs, “how far are you?”
            “Almost done.”
            He looks confused.
            “I mean, I’m enjoying it, I just don’t know if it’s any good, you know?”

            Like, I really needed to have someone tell me that this is an acceptable book to be reading. Everyone else likes it too or critics are just raving about it. I mean, I gave a bad review to a Pulitzer-prize winning author, clearly I have no idea what I’m talking about, right? I think I feel especially uncomfortable with historical fiction because I’m not enough of a history buff to know how historically accurate it is. Like when I was in 8th grade and I loved Gone with the Wind, but then found out it was racist and according to the battles Scarlett was pregnant for 18 months or something (ask a history buff, I don’t remember). It took me years and a couple re-reads to realize that I was just desperately in love with Rhett Butler and was skimming the book until he showed up again. So, why am I even writing this blog? Because I have a lot of opinions and I like to share them.
"It's cool Scarlett, I want to be your slave" - every line of Mammy's
            The 19th Wife, by David Ebershoff tells two stories, one set in present day Utah, where Jordan Scott returns to his hometown after his mom, (his dad's nineteenth wife) has allegedly shot her husband. The evidence is stacked against her, yet when his mom says she didn’t do it, Jordan begins to delve into the mystery behind who shot his father.

Ann Eliza
            The other tale is of the most famous 19th Wife, Ann Eliza, 19th wife to Brigham Young in the 1800s. I loved her story. Which kind of makes me feel like there’s something wrong with me, because what happens to her is awful. Ann Eliza’s story shows in full detail what life would truly be like for a plural wife. There is no romanticizing it like Big Love and Sister Wives does. She sees it as an institution that enslaves women and abuses children because what father can love 19 wives and 200 children equally? What made Ann Eliza famous, though, is that she wrote a tell-all memoir about polygamy and went on a crusade to make it illegal in the US. And who doesn’t love a story of someone taking something horrible that happened to her and using it as a crusade to save the world? (Ok. Good, I’m not a bad person. I did not enjoy seeing her abused, I just wanted to see her break the shackles of the institution).

            I totally didn’t figure out who the murderer was. I’m not sure I totally cared, because I didn’t really love Jordan or his mom and I definitely wasn’t upset that his dad was dead. And, like I've said before, I rarely figure out who it was.  

Read this book if you like historical fiction, are comfortable with a gay protagonist (Jordan) with a love interest, and if you're ok with reading an entire book filled with characters that are pretty anti-Mormon, although I would argue that the novel is not anti-Mormon, just anti polygamy. 

A note on historical accuracy:
According to Wikipedia (which is totally 100% accurate), Ann Eliza Webb Dee Young was totally a real person. She was a wife of Brigham Young, though her rank varies (which the novel touches upon, including a potential reason why the number may change). She did, in fact, write an autiobiography titled Wife No. 19 and after divorcing Brigham Young, became extremely opposed to Mormonism due to their practice of polygamy. 

In doing this very minimal research, I found out that there is a Lifetime movie based on this book. So, take that as you will. 

OH MY GOD IS THAT LOGAN? Yes it is. Oh how the mighty have fallen. I wonder if I could make every book review come back to Gilmore Girls? Did I mention Lauren Graham wrote a book? You should totally read that one because it's the best


  1. That actor is now on The Good Wife - a regular. He's complicated, we used to hate the character -now we are intrigued.

  2. Good for him! I didn't love his character on Gilmore Girls, I was mostly just proud of myself for recognizing him from the one picture. lol