David Ebershoff - The 19th Wife

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Absorbing and Eye-Opening

Apr 29, 2009
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Pros:Powerful, moving and informative without tipping the balance into straight history.

Cons:The main story becomes the back-story and is almost thrown away at the end.

One of the most absorbing and interesting reads of 2009.  The juxtaposition of historical narrative (told principally through journal entries) and modern narrative is deftly handled for the most part.  At times I found myself longing for more detail on the modern Mormon murder mystery that is effectively the premise for the book.  The story of Ann Eliza, Brigham Young's "19th wife" threatens to swamp the book at times; the main story becomes the back-story for most of the second half of the novel.  It is a good thing, then, that Ann Elizas' story is so compelling.  This is the history of Mormonism and polygamy bought to vivid life in the American desert - a life that continues to this day.  It is a powerful and moving tale of the struggle to maintain faith with a Prophet who no longer seems to care about his people as individuals.  I would certainly rate it amongst the 6 best books I have read in the last 12 months.


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