Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The 19th Wife

The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff

Historical fiction opens your eyes to a new world, a different time period or a place you can only imagine.  It may introduce you to people and events you have never heard of or want to learn more about.  These are some of the reasons enjoyed this book.   I was introduced to new people, new places and events I never knew occurred until I read The 19th Wife.

The 19th Wife was an incredibly entertaining and educational read for me.  This book contains a duel story line about two different wives that are both number 19.  The first story is a modern murder mystery where the 19th wife is accused of murdering her husband in 2004.  This part of the story takes place is Mesadale, Utah where a group of "radical" Firsts still practice traditional polygamy that the LDS Mormons removed from their religious doctrine in the 19th century.  It is narrated by the 19th wife's son named Jordan who she left on the side of the road in the middle of the night with 17 dollars in his pocket, when he was 14 years old, because the prophet told her it was the will of God.

The second story line is the historical and familial stories of  Brigham Young (the second prophet of the Mormon church) and his 19th wife, Ann Eliza Young.  Brigham was over 60 when he married Ann Eliza who was in her early twenties.  She is later abandoned by him and begins divorce proceedings and seeks to end polygamy in the Mormon church.  She writes a book called The 19th wife, which is an ebook you can download, in which this book parallels her story.  Basically the author, Ebershoff, read Ann Eliza's book and presents the important details of her story while weeding out parts he felt unnecessary.  Another interesting historical mystery is that Ann Eliza disappears and no one knows what happens to her.  The author speculates on different scenarios of her death and I have formed my own opinion.  I am curious to know your opinion on what could have happened to her.

The historical accounts in the book were so interesting to me as I didn't know anything about their relationship, nor did I know much about Brigham Young.  So this part contains some history about how the church formed, their time in Illinois, the travels to Utah and the forming of the large Mormon community in Utah.  Totally fascinating and utterly amazing what this group of people accomplished in such a short time.  

Both of these interesting stories intertwine and intersect in the book.  Personally, I learned so much and was blown away by how much I liked this book and how fast I devoured all 600 pages of it.  I liked the approach the author took using websites, Wikipedia, letters, and primary source documents, most of which he wrote himself.  It was interesting reading it, as it felt like reading the true sources.  In some ways I wish he would have included actual sources and documents inside the text. 

I have included two pictures, one of Brigham Young, the other Ann Eliza Webb Young.

I have to say that I really, really loved this book and I would recommend that you read it.  I am curious to know what you think.

It is also important to mention that this is being made into a Lifetime Original Movie set to air in September, 2010.  Check your local TV listings.  I believe the film is only going to cover the modern storyline and not the story of Brigham and Ann Eliza but I am not positive.


  1. This sounds like a book I will enjoy too-that blend of fact and fiction. Thanks for the review.

  2. BTW, I really like your new look, especially the background!!

  3. I'm glad to finally see your review. This book sounds phenomenal. What a fabulous review. I'll have to go track it down. :)

    You asked on my blog about my commenting system. It's called Intense Debate. If you go to you can install it for your blog, it was super easy. I think you will really like it. :)