The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff

This was the most fascinating book I’ve read in a long time. The 19th Wife is part historical/part contemporary. Part of the book is about Brigham Young’s 19th wife who publicly divorced him and showed the true face of polygamy to the world. The other part of the book is told from a young man’s point of view whose mother is his father’s 19th wife and accused of murdering him.

The author does a wonderful job of presenting the belief system that let polygamy flourish in the 1800’s and also today.

The story causes one to give serious thought to why plural wives put up with the system and what happens to the children; especially the “lost boys”, the 14 and 15 year-old boys thrown out of their community so the girls are available for the older men. That such a barbaric and medieval society flourishes right here in the middle of the United States is something we need to take a long hard look at as a society as a whole.

Jill James