This incredible novel is part murder mystery, part historical fiction, and part coming-of-age story. The protagonist is a young, gay exile from a fundamentalist polygamist compound, who has been living as a runaway for years. News of his father’s murder (and his mother’s arrest for said murder) brings him back to the home he thought he’d never see again in an attempt to clear her name. Twined with this contemporary narrative is a historical fictionalization of Brigham Young’s journey across America, his adoption of polygamy, and the rebellion of his young 19th wife. There’s a lot going on in this book, and Ebershoff makes it work. A seriously impressive novel.
Fall '09/Winter '10 Reading Group List
“A fascinating tale of polygamy and its effect on those who practice it. This novel really tells two tales -- that of Jordan Scott -- a young man who was thrown out of his fundamentalist sect and who is now trying to clear his mother of murder -- and that of Ann Eliza Young, the wife of Brigham Young, who went on to denounce polygamy. This is an amazingly researched, well-written novel!”
— Mary Cowen, Anderson's Bookshop, Naperville, IL
August 2008 Indie Next List
“The 19th Wife brilliantly combines two stories: one, historical fiction about Ann Eliza Young, who defies her church and husband, Brigham Young, the other a modern-day murder mystery set in Utah. Ebershoff adroitly gives the reader an understanding of a world of faith and love most of us can not comprehend, and he writes stunningly, with great depth and feeling for his characters.”
— Jane Dawson, Porter Square Books, Cambridge, MA
It is 1875, and Ann Eliza Young has recently separated from her powerful husband, Brigham Young, prophet and leader of the Mormon Church. Expelled and an outcast, Ann Eliza embarks on a crusade to end polygamy in the United States. A rich account of her family’s polygamous history is revealed, including how both she and her mother became plural wives. Yet soon after Ann Eliza’s story begins, a second exquisite narrative unfolds–a tale of murder involving a polygamist family in present-day Utah. Jordan Scott, a young man who was thrown out of his fundamentalist sect years earlier, must reenter the world that cast him aside in order to discover the truth behind his father’s death. And as Ann Eliza’s narrative intertwines with that of Jordan’s search, readers are pulled deeper into the mysteries of love, family, and faith.
About the Author
David Ebershoff is the author of the novels The 19th Wife, Pasadena, and The Danish Girl, and a short-story collection, The Rose City. His fiction has won a number of awards, including the Rosenthal Foundation Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Ferro-Grumley Award, and the Lambda Literary Award. His books have been translated into twenty languages to critical acclaim. The 19th Wife was made into a television movie and The Danish Girl is under development as a feature film. Ebershoff teaches in the graduate writing program at Columbia University and is an editor-at-large at Random House. He lives in New York City.
"Engrossing . . . remarkable . . . a book packed with historical illumination, unforgettable characters and the deepest questions about the tenacity of belief . . . The greatest triumph is the way [The 19th Wife] illuminates the larger landscape of faith." - The Washington Post Book World
"Part history class, part expose, part love story, The 19th Wife is thoroughly addictive. . . .[David] Ebershoff not only imparts a valuable lesson on religion, but spins a compelling tale that makes readers question the power of faith and what we believe and why." - USA Today
"Rarely has a work of fiction seemed more timely. . . . A page-turning epic. . . [a[ tour de force." - Vogue
“This exquisite tour de force explores the dark roots of polygamy and its modern-day fruit in a renegade cult...Ebershoff (The Danish Girl) brilliantly blends a haunting fictional narrative by Ann Eliza Young, the real-life 19th “rebel” wife of Mormon leader Brigham Young, with the equally compelling contemporary narrative of fictional Jordan Scott, a 20-year-old gay man…With the topic of plural marriage and its shattering impact on women and powerless children in today's headlines, this novel is essential reading for anyone seeking understanding of the subject.” –Publishers Weekly, Starred and “Pick of the Week”