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Thursday, November 27, 2008

The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff

Posted by Irish in Review0 Comments

Publisher: Random House
Publication Year: 2008
ISBN: 1400063973
Format: Audio
Pages: 514 (Hardcover)
Audio Length: 15 discs (19 hrs)
Narrators: Kimberly Farr, Rebecca Lowman, Arthur Morey, Daniel Passer.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff is another of those books that I first heard about when it was an offering on LibraryThing’s early reviewer program. As with many other books I didn’t win this one but the title and description stayed with me and so when I recognized the audio version sitting on the shelf of my local library I immediately checked it out. The story deals with that sect of Mormonism that still claim that having multiple wives is the will of God. The modern story is about Jordan and his mother, the 19th wife at a cult-like sect of Mormonism in Utah. Jordan was expelled from the community years earlier but finds himself drawn home when his mother is accused of murdering his father. But that is just one layer of the story. The other layer goes back in time to the early days of the Mormon religion. With its famous leader Brigham Young and his equally famous wife Ann Eliza Young….another women who was called the 19th wife.

Initially the story of Ann Eliza is one that that is supposed to teach and educate the reader about the Mormon religion. To explain its origins and how polygamy was initially part of that but due to efforts of Ann Eliza and church leaders after Brigham how the practice fell out of favor. This is wonderful historical information and I loved learned about this churches history. It was nice to see it in print so that others might learn and know that the majority of Mormons aren’t like the sects you see on the evening news….that use the old teachings as way to explain away their actions. (hmm…sounds a bit like other religious sects & even some mainstream ones too don’t you think?). Anywho, this backstory soon dominates the book. The reader spends more and more time in Ann Eliza’s world that the one of Jordan becomes secondary and a bit of a distraction. I think that while the story of Ann Eliza could have stood strong on its own the modern story couldn’t. So instead it became back burner. Its narrative rushed and incomplete. It felt like an after thought and its ending was messy and a bit too clean cut. While the story of Ann Eliza was lyrical. It flowed nicely and really sucked you in wanting to know more about this women and that infamous man Brigham Young.

I also loved the audio of this book. Although I must admit that while two female narrators are listed…I could never distinguish two distinct female voices. I had no such problem with the male voices. One was deep and strong and served as that of Brigham and other males in Ann Eliza’s voice. The other was more feminized, higher pitched but no less melodic and served as the voice of Jordan. All the voices blended well together and really served to bring this story to life. I enjoyed this novel and would recommend it to any that enjoy a historical novel. However, you may want to skip the modern story. Its weak and watered down and you won’t miss much.