Friday, August 27, 2010

Review: The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff

Title: The 19th Wife
Author: David Ebershoff
Genre: Historical fiction / murder mystery

Where I got it: Oregon Digital Library Consortium AKA my local library's electronic book site (audio and e-books).

One sentence:
Two stories intertwined: that of Ann Eliza, recently separated 19th wife of Brigham Young who begins a crusade against polygamy, and of Jordan Scott, a young man thrown out of the FLDS years earlier whose mother (also a 19th wife) has just been accused of murdering his father.

Family, belonging, faith, finding out who you are, polygamy, murder, intrigue.

Main character: Ann Eliza inspired mixed feelings in me. Because the mixed media describing her story were written both by people who held her in high regard and those who didn’t, I really got the full view on her character. It was tough because other parts in the book explained that she gave the correct story, but she may have inflated or diminished the importance of some events. It makes her a realistic historical character, but also makes the reader wonder if everything she says is true.
I though Jordan Scott was a complex character who I really enjoyed reading about. There were many aspects that could have dominated his characterization, but Ebershoff skillfully weaves in these important characteristics without making them overwhelm Jordan.

Secondary characters: I absolutely love Johnny, he was such a cute and snarky character. But he also shows a lot of the issues that Jordan struggles with, just in a more comical way. It’s almost sad to know that this young kid knows so much.

Writing style: Interweaving two stories as well as including “historical” documents, emails, clippings, web sites and research papers really draws the reader in. I loved reading through the different types of media on Ann Eliza, which really gave me a well-rounded view of the character.

Entertaining and interesting concept and plot, but I found it to drag on, especially Ann Eliza’s bit. There was a lot of information to take it, some of which I found interesting, some of which…not so much. I found myself looking forward to Jordan’s murder mystery because I was drawn into which of the wives would murder their husband, and why.

I loved the two plots, the characters, what seems like intense research and the writing of Jordan’s part.

Negatives: Length, some of the ‘scholarly’ language of Ann Eliza’s section was boring and difficult to get through.

Ending: Wrapped up nicely. The epilogue was a little lengthy, especially since at that point I kind of just wanted to it be done.

Verdict: I struggled a little bit to get through some of the extended details and some slow moving parts, but I really enjoyed the story and learning more about polygamy.

Rating: 7.7 / 10 (4 stars)

“Ann Eliza’s death remains a mystery. But mysteries, by their very nature, are meant to be solved.”


  1. Sounds like a fascinating book, I may have to give it a read.
    Thanks so much for finding me and for entering my giveaway ~ here's wishing you luck with winning!

  2. I am interested in the Mormon early history and the lives of the women who were in plural marriages. I found myself in awe of the strength of Ann Eliza Young, when women had few role models to look up to. She is independant yet wants to do the right thing. I loved this book and I hope you do too.