Friday, August 22, 2008

Pg. 69: David Ebershoff's "The 19th Wife"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: David Ebershoff's The 19th Wife.

About the book, from the publisher:
Faith, I tell them, is a mystery, elusive to many, and never easy to explain.

Sweeping and lyrical, spellbinding and unforgettable, David Ebershoff’s The 19th Wife combines epic historical fiction with a modern murder mystery to create a brilliant novel of literary suspense.

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 a family’s polygamous history is revealed, including how a young woman became a plural wife.

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 and faith.
Among the early acclaim for the novel:
"The 19th Wife is a big book, in every sense of the word. It sweeps across time and delves deeply into a world long hidden from sight. It offers historical and contemporary perspective on one of the world's fastest-growing religions and one of its oldest practices, and in the process it does that thing all good novels do: It entertains us."
Los Angeles Times

"Coming on the heels of the news-making raid on the FLDS polygamist sect in Texas, this lyrical yet fact-packed epic about the Mormon practice of plural marriage is both timely and transporting. Ebershoff intertwines a modern-day murder mystery with a sweeping historical saga; his title refers to the real-life wife of Mormon leader Brigham Young, who fled her husband and ditched her faith in 1873. Based on Ann Eliza's groundbreaking 1875 memoir, Wife No. 19, and her subsequent campaign to make polygamy illegal, Ebershoff re-creates her struggles as a "sister wife," bringing to life the jealousies, insecurities and financial hardships of being one of a string of spouses -- all of whom Brigham claimed to marry in honor of God. Equally compelling is the book's gritty contemporary story of another 19th wife -- from a renegade cult in the remote desert -- accused of killing her husband after he tells her he will no longer sleep with her. This wife is ultimately redeemed by her gay son, whom she abandoned (under orders from the sect's 'Prophet') when he was 14. Ebershoff's exhaustive research and deft prose combine to make his third novel a literary tour de force."
People, 4 out of 4 stars and a People pick

“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 review and “Pick of the Week”

“Engrossing…vivid…Ebershoff has produced a novel that poses engaging challenges for the faithful in any denomination without discounting the essential value of faith. The result is a book packed with historical illumination, unforgettable characters and the deepest questions about the tenacity of belief…Remarkable…The greatest triumph is the way all this material illuminates the larger landscape of faith.”
Washington Post Book World
Read an excerpt from The 19th Wife, and learn more about the author and his work at David Ebershoff's website.

David Ebershoff is the author of the novels, Pasadena and The Danish Girl, and a short-story collection, The Rose City.

The Page 69 Test: Pasadena.

The Page 69 Test: The 19th Wife.

--Marshal Zeringue