MAY BOOK: The Nineteenth Wife
AUTHOR: David Ebershoff
SYNOPSIS: (courtesy Louisa Thomas, New York Times)
Faith can make troubling claims on believers. In a prison diary — one of the many fictional documents in David Ebershoff’s third novel, “The 19th Wife” — the Mormon leader Brigham Young states one such problem plainly: “I know my faith to be the true faith of God . . . yet I cannot force belief upon others — or can I? Is this not my task, my mission? . . . I cannot know.”
Brigham Young married many women, some more by force than by choice. One of these women — officially his 19th wife (though the number was probably much higher) — rebelled. Her name was Ann Eliza, and she is a central character in Ebershoff’s book. A fictionalized version of her story runs alongside a murder mystery narrated by Jordan Scott, the son of a modern 19th wife who has been charged with killing her husband, one of the leaders of Mesadale, a modern-day fundamentalist community. Devout despite a wretched life, BeckyLyn Scott says she didn’t do it, and Jordan believes her.
I loved this book. It is probably not one that I would have chosen myself. It took me a long time to read it - I think that was because I was taking in all the historical parts. While I was reading it I was conscious that it was fact interwoven with fiction.
The two stories were easy to keep separate and I didn't find them confusing.
I was really interested in the history bits (though I know some of it was fabricated) but you got a broad sense of the early history of the Church of Latter Day Saints and the divisions therein.
I actually found reading about polygamy a bit stressful - I definitely know I couldn't be one of many wives!
Definitely one to recommend.