The 19th Wife

The 19th Wife

3.62 (49,175 ratings by Goodreads)
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Jordan returns from California to Utah to visit his mother in jail. As a teenager he was expelled from his family and religious community, a secretive Mormon offshoot sect. Now his father has been found shot dead in front of his computer, and one of his many wives - Jordan's mother - is accused of the crime. Over a century earlier, Ann Eliza Young, the nineteenth wife of Brigham Young, Prophet and Leader of the Mormon Church, tells the sensational story of how her own parents were drawn into plural marriage, and how she herself battled for her freedom and escaped her powerful husband, to lead a crusade to end polygamy in the United States. Bold, shocking and gripping, "The 19th Wife" expertly weaves together these two narratives: a page turning literary mystery and an enthralling epic of love and more

Product details

  • Paperback | 608 pages
  • 126 x 198 x 40mm | 399.16g
  • Transworld Publishers Ltd
  • Black Swan
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 0552774987
  • 9780552774987
  • 12,876

Review quote

"The multiplicity of perspectives serves to broaden Ebershoff's depiction not only of polygamy, but also of the people whose lives it informs. And this gives his novel a rare sense of moral urgency" The New York Times Book Review "A marvellous evocation of pioneer life... But his sympathy is with Eliza Young and other women trapped in what the Mormons termed 'celestial marriages'" Daily Mail "Beautifully written... genuinely enthralling" Literary Review "Engrossing... vivid... packed with historical illumination, unforgettable characters... the greatest triumph is the way all this material illuminates the larger landscape of faith" Washington Post "Intelligent, compelling, with several decent twists" Guardianshow more

About David Ebershoff

David Ebershoff, born in 1969 in California, is a writer, editor and teacher. His earlier novel, The Danish Girl, is now a major film directed by Tom Hooper (The King's Speech) and starring Academy Award winner Eddie Redmayne. His most recent novel is The 19th Wife, which was an international bestseller, and was chosen for the Richard & Judy Book Club. He has won a number of literary awards, and teaches in the graduate writing programme at Columbia University as well working as an editor at Random House. He lives in New more

Review Text

"Beautifully written... genuinely enthralling"show more

Back cover copy

'Dishes the dirt on what it's really like being one of many wives. Funny, profound and utterly transporting' Marie Claire For the first time in six years, Jordan returns from California to Utah, to visit his mother - in jail. As a young boy he was expelled from his family's secretive polygamous Mormon sect.Now his father has been found shot dead in front of his computer, and one of his many wives - Jordan's mother - is accused of the crime. Over a century earlier, Ann Eliza Young, nineteenth wife of Brigham Young, second Prophet of the Mormon Church, tells the sensational story of how she battled for her freedom from her powerful husband, to lead a crusade to end polygamy in the United States.Bold, shocking and gripping, The 19th Wife expertly weaves together these two narratives in an enthralling epic of love, family, murder and faith. 'Shines light from every angle on the divisive topic of American polygamy in a compelling and timely novel' Danny Scheinmann, author of Random Acts of Heroic Love 'A big book, in every sense of the does that thing all good novels do: it entertains us' Los Angeles Times 'Engrossing...vivid...packed with historical illumination, unforgettable characters...remarkable' Washington Postshow more

Rating details

49,175 ratings
3.62 out of 5 stars
5 16% (8,069)
4 42% (20,523)
3 32% (15,749)
2 8% (3,833)
1 2% (1,001)

Our customer reviews

We were appalled when we first learned about the polygamy practiced by the Latter-Day Saints in Utah. We were shocked and horrified, but there is no denial that we were curious about their so-called religious duty, as claimed by the Prophet who leads the people - how many wives did he have in total? And was the practice of polygamy like the Prophet said, God's will or was it merely a camouflage? An excuse for the Prophet's inability to rein his animalistic behaviour? In The 19th Wife, David Ebershoff presents a fictional tale which resonates with Ann Eliza Young's experience in polygamous marriage, although it basically tells a different story. Our protagonist Jordan Scott, is a 'lost boy' - someone excommunicated by the Church of Latter-Day Saints, all because he holds hands with his step-sister, Queenie, whom he views as a sister, confidante and friend. Later, when he is older, he learns about her mother's imprisonment, and realizes that she is accused of murdering his father. He decides to visit his mother, and later embarks on a journey to clear her name. In between the Jordan's story, the author inserted Ann Eliza's memoir, within which some of the deepest secrets of polygamy are revealed. I have a slight feeling that Jordan's story is not the main point of the story as Ann Eliza's story takes place more often. Jordan's tale is more like a side dish to Ann Eliza's main course. Since she was young, Ann Eliza's wit and intuition already made her question the legality of the Prophet's rule. An example was when she fell seriously ill, and was taken to the Endowment House to be cleansed, anointed and forced to watch a play acted by a few of the Prophet's followers. As oppose to the other Sisters' (the Prophet's numerous wives) awe, she only questioned the play: Why is Eve wearing a horse-hair wig? I didn't realize Satan knew the Scottish jig. --- page 289 Brigham's psychotic sexual appetite and interest in young, pretty girls already made me uncomfortable, but I was even repulsed by his atrocities when I learned of his acts of incest: He (Brigham) was known to marry more than one step-daughter. --- page 295 Ann Eliza's father, Chauncey Webb previously reacted vigorously towards Brigham's decision of making polygamy one of their policies. He claimed that he loved one person only, that was his wife and rejected Brigham's order to take another wife. But midway through, he gave up resisting and married Lydia, their house caretaker. Somewhere in his mid-years, Chauncey took three wives in a week. Ann Eliza's words expertly summarizes her disappointment in her father's actions and view on polygamy: "... I suppose my greatest disappointment has been realizing my father, like Joseph and Brigham before him, tried to shroud his passions in the mantle of religion. He used God to defend his adultery." --- page 253 Jordan's quest of rescuing her mother from a crime that she never committed was filled with unexpected discoveries. He received help from many people who later became his good friends. He also found his true love in Tom. Just to make a note, I was at first a little confused with Jordan's identity. But after some time, I realized that he was a boy - albeit one with unusual sexual interest (he's gay). David Ebershoff's The 19th Wife is a book that expertly reveals the secrets of polygamy and points out precisely how blind faith can backfire on a person's life. It also shows the power of words - especially from one that claims to be God's representative on Earth. If you're interested in learning more about polygamy or Mormonism in general, or have always enjoyed reading well-researched historical fiction, don't hesitate to pick up this more
by Aik
Super novel, a shocking look at another world lived by many. Well told, holds your interest throughout. An excellent mixture of good writing, unusual content, drama and more
by Sinead McManus
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