My introduction to Mormonism came during my trip to Utah when I was reading up on places to explore in SLC. At that time, I couldn’t make the connection between LDS and Mormonism. So suffice to say, reading a review of the 19th Wife on Amazon piqued my interest enough to reserve it at the NPL. What was definitely unexpected was the dual storyline both of which were addressing the issue of polygamy. My first impressions that this book is part fiction and part history was nicely shattered by the time I reached the author interview pages and I was quite disappointed to say the least.
Moving on, the key story focuses on the accounts of one Ann Eliza Young, the famous or infamous (whichever way you choose) wife#19 of Briham Young, one of the Pioneer Prophets of the Latter Day Saints or LDS as they are often referred as. The 2nd story focuses on Jordan Scott an excommunicated Latter-Day Saint, and his mother BeckyLyn who is framed for the murder of her husband. As expected, the glassy-eyed lady continues to hold onto her faith leaving it up to her son to clear her name. As with any dual stories, the plot weaves back and forth, swinging between the past and the present but along the single thread i.e. polygamy and its impact on the women and children. David Ebershoff addresses issues of neglect, abuse and suffering that typically follow this institution and how the sinners aid the innocent in sinning. One story ends in a mystery while the other ends on a somewhat happy note. Ebershoff does a very good job of hiding the killer’s identity in plain sight leaving the readers to simply follow Jordan as he does his best to solve the mystery.
Although Ebershoff does his best to explain the circumstances and the reasons why the women don’t question such practices or escape them, it was hard for me to comprehend that people can live in and follow such faiths blindly not once letting their doubts to guide them. It seems that common sense often doesn’t prevail in such situations and I will say it again, the story baffled me. While it is true that polygamy still persists across countries in the Middle East and perhaps parts of Asia, I couldn’t reconcile with the fact that NA which considers itself the keeper of democracy and the pinnacle of perfectionism couldn’t kill this abominable practice. So read it if you want just a glimpse into the issue but certainly not for detailed research.