04 March 2010

Book Review: The 19th Wife

Title:  The 19th Wife
Author:  David Ebershoff
Published: 2009  Pages: 507

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Take a Chance Challenge
Become a Character:  For this challenge, you can read any book you want. However, you have to write about the book as one of the characters from the book.

When Jordan Scott stopped by the jail, I was surprised to say the least.  After the release of his mother, I had expected to never see him again.  He wanted me to read a recently published book that I had a small part in.

I suppose I should back up a bit.  My name is Cunningham, Officer Cunningham, and I am a guard in a Utah prison.  Jordan's mother was under my care when she was charged with killing her husband.  The scuttlebutt around the jail was that she had finally lost it after spending her life as one of twenty plus wives in a polygamous community called Mesadale.  She grabbed a gun and helped that horny bastard to meet his maker.

Now I for one can't begin to fathom any woman allowing herself to be used so abominably as the rumors I hear coming from that town. I always believed those women wanted nothing more than to escape their lives but were too scared and too abused to go about it.  But BeckyLyn, that's her name, made me see a scarier side; she didn't want to leave, she loved her husband, and she completely believed in that ridiculous marry many and marry them young crapola of her faith.  She sure didn't seem like a woman who had just killed her bastard of a husband, more like a grieving widow.  And I guess Jordan saw a bit of the same thing in her since he started his whole hairbrained scheme to find out what really happened the night his father died.

After reading Ebershoff's book, I have to say he did a good job of showing all the various and sundry sides of this complicated issue.  I really like how he mixed in Jordan and his mama's story with Ann Eliza Young, a wife of Brigham Young, one of the original Prophets of Mormonism, and with the research of one Kelly Dee, a young woman writing her thesis on the role of polygamy.  It was interesting to look at this one subject from so many different perspectives.

Growing up in Utah, I couldn't help but learn about the Mormons, LDS, Firsts, and the such not.  They sure did carve out a little religious country all their own out here. The Mormons have made it pretty clear that they do not support polygamy these days, and I was happy to see Ebershoff put that into the book.  Most of the Mormons I know are good people who find the practice as abhorrent as I do.

What I've never really understood is how our government can allow the practice of polygamy to continue.  Blah, blah, blah to all that separation of Church and State hullabaloo. We were okay with taking away the right for animal sacrifices and drug use, but we let 60 year old men marry their 13 year old nieces?  What a bunch of shit.  Ebershoff seems to think it's shit too, and I really liked this line he put in the book.  He wrote it as if Ann Eliza said it:  "And if someone were to say I believe in slavery because it is in the Bible, would you say, go then and be free to practice it?"  You said it sister.

Well, I suppose I've talked enough about all of this.  I guess I just wanted to say that I think Ebershoff's book is a good read.  And I'm more than happy to increase my hours at the prison if we decide to start throwing some abusive, neglectful polygamists in jail.

Officer Cunningham

My Thoughts
I chose Officer Cunningham primarily because I could put my views in her voice with a few tweaks.  She was a minor character with no portrayed views on the situation, and I have to admit that I'm stereotyping here based on views of female law enforcement (I just can't see a female officer supporting polygamy).  The cussing is a stereotype too, but there you have it.  Plus the phrase "bunch of shit" pops into my head every time I think about the government's indirect acceptance of polygamy.

As to the book, I recommend it.  The style is unique, the plot-lines fast paced, the history informative, and the themes intriguing.

Other books about polygamy and the FLDS I've read and reviewed include the chosen one by Carol Lynch Williams (fiction) and Escape by Carolyn Williams (non-fiction).

Other Reviews
If I've missed yours, let me know!

Devourer of Books; Becky's Book Reviews; Fyrefly's Book Blog; Rhapsody in Books; A Novel Menagerie; Hey Lady! Whatcha Readin'?; Diary of an Eccentric;

ChallengesWomen UnBound100+ Reading Challenge, Reading Resolutions, World Religions, Take Another Chance,


  1. Um, that is kind of the coolest challenge ever. How did I miss that one?

    This was such a great, creative review. The 19th Wife was one of my favorite reads last year (I have a weakness for fictionalized non-fiction). Kudos to you.

  2. Very nicely different review! I really liked this book, even though it made me really mad while reading it!

  3. I missed this challenge, too...that's a great idea, and one that you could have a lot of fun with.

  4. I haven't done this part of the Take a Chance Challenge yet, but I didn't think about using a minor character. Interesting. Also great for the World Religion Challenge! :)

  5. Thanks guys! And for those of you who haven't joined yet, you should head over and sign up now. Jenners has some great tasks for this challenge!

  6. Oh My Gosh ... I love it! You totally rocked this!! I've been trying to seek inspiration for doing my own part of this challenge and I like the idea of using a minor character like this to tell the story. Great job!

  7. This is an excellent review and love the point of view style. I had an inkling of what this book was about, but now my interest is totally piqued. Thanks Trisha!

  8. Thanks for the link! I absolutely loved this unique review.

    Diary of an Eccentric


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