The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff

Title:  The 19th Wife

Author:  David Ebershoff

Hardcover:  507 pages

Date Published:  2008

Publisher:  Random House

ISBN:  9781400063970

Twenty minutes later we were outside the Chevron, eating a sack of microwaved burritos.  ‘Now I know who you are,” said Johnny.  “But remind me:  why’d you get kicked out?”

“I was caught alone with one of my stepsisters.  What about you?”

“I was listening to the Killers.  It wasn’t even my disc, it was my brother’s.  But they caught me.  I don’t even like the Killers.”

That wasn’t the real reason.  They get rid of the boys to take away the competition.  With no boys around, the old men have the girls to themselves.

The 19th Wifeby David Ebershoff, page 96

In The 19th Wife, David Ebershoff switches back and forth from the story of Ann Eliza Young, 19th wife of Brigham Young and his only EX, and the mystery behind the murder of Jordan’s father.   Jordan’s mother, wife number 19,  sits in jail, accused of shooting her polygamist husband, insists she is innocent.  Jordan believes her and sets about to discover the truth, which ends up being a lot more convoluted than he thought possible.

One of the interesting things about this book is how the two seemingly unrelated stories of the two 19th wives were used to not only display how such a lifestyle can be possible in the 21st century but how such a belief system came to be.  It gives the history behind the “Revelation” of plural marriage through the eyes a Sister Wife, and how the practice affected the whole family.

How this book affected me:

I couldn’t help but get angry again and again while reading it.  For one, it boggles my brain how any woman with half the sense God gave a house plant would tolerate such a practice.  I don’t mean that I don’t understand it on an intellectual level, the book does an excellent job of showing how it was a progressive thing, but at a heart level I can’t believe (it scares me to think it possible) that a woman would say, “Why yes, you have my permission to objectify me and treat me like livestock.  Then, when my daughters are older, you can passel them out to their uncles and other men three times their age to be chattel.  It sounds like a lovely set up!” 

No, I learned the history of it, that a man decided to use his position as a leader to cover up his own leachery by saying, “God said” then made his followers eternal salvation contigent upon their following along because if everyone’s doing it then it’s not as bad.  Then the powers that were discovered that if they kept the women breeding their numbers and voting power would be formidable.  Also, the idea of the man being king of his castle and serviced and waited upon by as many women as he wants, doing whatever he wants, would bring in flocks of them in a time when men were the only ones with legislative powers.

To be honest, I haven’t finished this book yet, I’m not even halfway through.  But I will continue to read it because it’s very compelling and well-written.  I want to know how 5 will fare… Why did she lie about not being there the night her step father was killed?  Will Queenie get caught? or will she escape the Firsts?  Did Jordan’s mom do it? Will she be found guilty?  What’s the lawyer’s, Mr. Heber’s, real angle and why does he seem to want her to be guilty?  Is there really unrest within the Firsts? And how did Ann Eliza become the 19th wife of Brigham Young?  I can’t put it down… I wish life would leave me be to read it, though.

Well written, intriguing and, best of all, inspires conversations and further study, The 19th Wifeby David Ebershoff is an excellent book.  I give it 4 1/2 out of 5 stars.


And NOW for the good stuff…. 

How would you like to win a copy of The 19th Wife? 

To enter, leave a comment telling me you’d like a chance to win 🙂  Contest ends 11:59 pm, June 23, with the winner announced at the beginning of next week’s Viral Video Wednesday post (June 24th).


Tweet, blog and email about this contest for an extra entry each.


13 Responses

  1. Oh I hate to enter first, because Mr. Random Number almost never likes the number one, but I guess somebody’s got to do it! And I would like this book (as if I didn’t have SO MUCH ELSE to read)!

    nbmars AT yahoo DOT com

  2. I would love to read this book. rsgrandinetti(at)yahoo(dot)com

  3. I have this in my TBR pile and I’ve been wanting to read it (as I’ve been wanting to read so many other books too). I guess these woman are born adn brought up in that culture and see their mom’s and grandmother’s and aunts all accept it, so maybe they don’t find anything wrong with it.

    Don’t enter me.

  4. Please don’t enter me (I have the book already). I haven’t gotten around to reading this yet, but I think I’ll bump it up in the pile. I like books that get me thinking and even angry.

  5. Don’t enter me. I enjoyed this book a lot. I wondered how women would tolerate polygamy until I read Shattered Dreams by Irene Spencer and realized that from the day they’re born they’re taught it’s the road to salvation.

  6. I REALLY enjoyed this book. Don’t enter me, though, because I actually have an ARC AND a hardcover copy.

  7. WOW so much passion and you haven’t even gotten halfway through the book! Can’t wait to read your thoughts once you’ve finished it!

    Thanks so much for being part of the tour!

  8. I would love to win this book, please!

  9. […] ~ The Kool Aid Mom at Mt. TBR is giving away a copy of The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff. […]

  10. Please count me in for the giveaway, I’ve been interested in this book for awhile but haven’t gotten around to getting it from the library. Winning it would be awesome!

  11. Enter me. I would like to read this book because I have a morbid fascination with polygamy. It might have something to do with the 3 weeks that I was a Mormon.

    wendyfairfull at gmail dot com

  12. I’ve tried to leave a comment before, but computer has been acting up. Hope it goes thru this time!

    Have a great night either way! 🙂

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