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The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff




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The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff
Published by Doubleday in 2008.

An ex-communicated Mormon youth accidentally hits upon a website which reveals news of the slaying of his father by his mother. His mother was his father’s 19th wife and both are members of a secret Mormon offshoot sect that continues to practice polygamy to this day. Believing the innocence of his mother in this crime, Jordan sets out to investigate the circumstances of the murder and to prove beyond doubt the inability of his mother to commit this crime. This modern day story is then interwoven into a meticulously researched account of the origins of the Church of Latter Day Saints, the roles played by Joseph Smith (Jnr), Brigham Young and Ann Eliza Young. Polygamy and the belief in plural marriage is explored through the eyes of Ann Eliza Young who herself had been the 19th wife of Brigham Young and the architect of the elimination of plural marriage.

This is a multi-layered book, a page turning literary mystery, a historical treatise on the Church of Latter Day Saints, a snapshot of 19th century America, a commentary on societal values of the day, a biographical insight into two very powerful men. It is fundamentally a story of blood ties and family and the deep bond between mother and son.

‘Engrossing...vivid...packed with historical illumination, unforgettable characters...remarkable.’ Washington Post

‘Ambitious. . . impressive. . Ebershoff demonstrates abundant virtuosity, as he convincingly inhabits the voices of both a nineteenth-century Mormon wife and a contemporary gay youth excommunicated from the church, while also managing to say something about the mysterious power of faith.’ The New Yorker

David Ebershoff was born in California. He is a lecturer in creative writing at Columbia University, New York.