Tuesday, January 5, 2010

most men can barely handle one...

I just finished my second book! The book is called The 19th Wife and it was written by David Ebershoff. It tales the tales of two women in plural/polygamous marriages. The first is Ann Eliza Young the "19th" (but in actuality the 52nd) wife of Brigham Young. She was famous for leaving Brigham and taking such a prominent stance against polygamous marriages. I don't know how the LDS church sees her historically, but I do know that shortly after her getting U.S. President Grant to take a stance against polygamy, LDS President Wilford Woodruff issued a manifest against the practice in 1890. 

The second is the 19th wife of a modern day polygamist man, part of a "Mormon" cult that calls themselves "The Firsts". Her story is narrated by her gay son who was kicked out of the community and abandoned as a child because he was caught holding hands with his sister. His mother is being tried for the murder of her husband, who is...well, a pretty shady guy. Jordan (the son) falls in love with a gay Mormon who lives in the town his mother is being held in, and takes care of a smart aleck-y kid who was kicked out of "Mesadale" (a fictional Utah town that is the compond for the "Firsts").

I liked this book because it wasn't bashing the LDS church. It was mainly just discussing the intricate problems that exist in a polygamous communities: spousal abuse/neglect, jealousy, betrayal, etc. It also basically states that plural marriages are an excuse for people to have sex with whoever they want (Ann Eliza's father wanted to sleep with one of his housekeepers, so he made her into one of his wives).

The fact of the matter is that polygamy is definitely a part of the PAST of the LDS faith, and it's interesting to learn about, but I really appreciated how this book didn't attack the FAITH, just this one aspect of the church's practices. Brigham Young was presented as a true man, an honest man, and a prophet of their church, even though he was not the best husband to Ann Eliza. Similarly, the author makes it very clear that there is a HUGE difference between the "Firsts" and the LDS church of today. 

I have a lot of respect for the Mormon faith. I also like historical fiction. And this is a darn good book. It compiles excerpts from Ann Eliza's book, newspaper clippings, letters, and some fiction.

I vote yes.

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