It my great pleasure to be David Ebershoff’s host for today’s stop of the TLC book tour for his novel, The 19th Wife.
Click on the author’s name below for more information about him and his work. The information contained on his website provide a great deal of information about the real lives of Ann Eliza Young and Brigham Young.
To find out more about TLC Book Tours, click here.
I have been anticipating reading The 19th Wife since I first read Devourer of Books’ review earlier this year. This novel follows the evolution of plural marriage within the Mormon church from its first inception, the ultimate denouncement of the institution after Brigham Young’s death, and the sect called The Firsts who broke with the Mormon Church when the church began punishing polygamy with excommunication for they were sure that plural marriage did, in fact, lead the Saints to their salvation. Ever since I’ve read my first review, I’ve read more and more wonderful reviews. While Jordan Scott was a wonderful character and I found Ann Eliza’s life and prior to her divorce from Brigham Young engrossing, I wish that I enjoyed this book as much as others have. For me extremely interesting and personal stories were bogged down by a structure that separated them with what was often dry research written by a Mormon graduate student.
Jordan’s story begins when his mother is arrested for the murder of his father, a powerful member of The Firsts in Mesadale. Jordan is one of the Lost Boys, those young men excommunicated from The Firsts for varying small indiscretions. One day during his adolescence, his mother drove him to the highway and left him there to fend for himself. To him, she chose her church over her son. As much as she hurt him, he cannot help but return to Utah when he reads about legal troubles. He cannot stop himself for helping her, even though it keeps him far away from his new life and his next job.
Like Jordan, Ann Eliza was born to a faithful Saint. Her parents, Chauncey and Elizabeth Webb are some of the first people converted by Joseph Smith as he leads his people to Nauvoo, IL in search of religious freedom. While Elizabeth carried Ann Eliza, Joseph Smith comes to the Webbs and explains to them that God revealed to him that it was His will that Joseph’s Saints must populate the land through plural marriages. Although the Webbs fought this teaching initially, Joseph Smith’s martyrdom convinced first Elizabeth and then her husband through her that plural, or celestial, marriage was God’s plan. Ann Eliza was just a young child when the institution that would define her life and her life’s work set root for the Mormon people. What she witnessed did not show celestial marriages leading each person closer to God. She saw the practice eating away at each person’s soul.
What David Ebershoff does best is create strong, believable characters with their own distinct voices. Jordan, Ann Eliza, Brigham, Queenie, 5, Tom, Chauncey, Lorenzo and Elizabeth were all compelling and I found myself easily caring them. The people were flawed and beautiful and human. Some of his characters were so honest and raw that it hurt to read. For example, Chauncey’s section of the novel was perfect. He was never as faithful a Saint as his beloved wife Elizabeth. He did not want anything to do with plural marriage at first. He loved his wife and wanted to be faithful to her. Celestial marriage changed him. It made him a slave to his physical desire and drove a wedge between him and the person he cared for the most in his life. Hearing him look back on his life with a regret he never completely named was heartbreaking.
Polygamy is such a foreign concept to me. After the news events of this summer, I appreciated reading a novel that could put that lifestyle into context. Without that, the people easily viewed as a passing sideshow attraction. The stories of these characters spoke volumes about faith, love, and the truths about the practice of polygamy within a theocracy. As such, the conclusions to the research written by an outside character were not needed. While it was intended to tie all the stories together logically, I found this structure intrusive. It slowed the story down when it was nearing what could have been such a satisfying climax. By the end, I was simply tired.
I would like to know what your thoughts are on polygamy, theocracy and religious freedom. To sweeten the deal, I’d like to offer a copy of The 19th Wife to one of you who leaves a comment about these topics by the end of the day EST on Wednesday, November 12th.
Please note that this contest is open to the US and Canada only. In the past month I’ve shipped three books to Singapore and one to Israel, so my international shipping budget has been drained for the time being.
There are many more wonderful stops, both past and future, on this book tour. Check out the details below:
David Ebershoff’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS:
Wednesday, Oct. 15th: Maw Books (Natasha got to meet David at a book signing!)
Thursday, Oct. 16th: Maw Books (review)
Friday, Oct. 17th: Reading, ‘Riting, and Retirement (guest post and review)
Monday, Oct. 20th: She Is Too Fond Of Books (will have another post soon with David answering questions from readers)
Tuesday, Oct. 21st: Age 30 – A Year in Books
Thursday, Oct. 23rd: A High and Hidden Place
Tuesday, Oct. 28th: Musings of a Bookish Kitty (review and author interview)
Thursday, Oct. 30th: Books on the Brain (giveaway)
Monday, Nov. 3rd: The Cottage Nest
Tuesday, Nov. 4th: B&B ex libris
Wednesday, Nov. 5th: Anniegirl1138
Thursday, Nov. 6th: The Tome Traveller
Tuesday, Nov. 11th: Educating Petunia
Wednesday, Nov. 12th: Diary of an Eccentric
Friday, Nov. 14th: Book Chase
To buy this novel, click here.