Reader's Comments
The 19th Wife By David Ebershoff

The 19th Wife

by David Ebershoff

PBR Book Review: (3.5 stars) In this book the author flips back and forth between two stories, both revolving around the Mormon doctrine of plural marriage; one is historical and the other modern day. The well researched historical storyline was compelling and thought provoking with insightful, fascinating details on polygamy. It showed the damaging effects of plural marriage on women and children, and also it's toll on some men, which came as a surprise to me. Polygamy is something I could never personally accept, but after reading this book I do have a better understanding of the devout, unquestioning faith underlying its existence and the daily challenges of practicing this faith. I found the main character Ann Eliza engaging; it was easy to get lost in her clear engaging voice, and forget you were reading fiction. Although I loved the historical part of the book, Ebershoff also used several other narrators though out this part, which at times, was confusing, and he tended to rambled a bit, especially towards the end. I did not enjoy the modern day portion of the book nearly as much. The main character Jordan was shallow and the contrast to the historical portion too diverse, which weakened the connection between the two stories. Although it did add some pivotal information about present day polygamy, overall the modern day subplot detracted from the book

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*Author Website:

*Other Books by Same Author: "The Danish Girl", "The Rose City", "Pasadena".

*Discussion Questions

1. The first part of the novel, "Two Wives," contains prefaces to two very different books. What did you think when you started reading The 19th Wife? Which story interested you the most?

2. Ann Eliza Young says, "Faith is a mystery." How does Ebershoff play with this metaphor? What are the mysteries in The 19th Wife? What does the novel say about faith?

3. What are your impressions of Ann Eliza Young, and how do those impressions change over the course of the novel? Do you trust her as a narrator?

4. Brigham Young was one of the most dynamic and complex figures in nineteenth-century America. How does the novel portray him? Do you come to understand his deep convictions? In the story of his marriage to Ann Eliza, he essentially gets the last word. Why?

5. What kind of man is Chauncey Webb? And Gilbert? What do they tell you about polygamy? And about faith?

6. Jordan is an unlikely detective. What makes him a good sleuth? What are his blind spots?

7. Many of the people who help Jordan-Mr. Heber, Maureen, Kelly, and Tom-are Mormons. What do you think Ebershoff is saying by this?

8. Like many mysteries, Jordan's story is a quest. What is he searching for?

9. Why do you think Ebershoff wrote the novel with so many voices? How do the voices play off one another? Who is your favorite narrator? And your least favorite?

10. Why do you think Ebershoff wrote a fictional memoir by Ann Eliza Young, and why are some chapters missing? As he says in his Author's Note, the real Ann Eliza Young actually wrote two memoirs: Wife No. 19, first published in 1875, and Life in Mormon Bondage, which came out in 1908. Based on your reading of The 19th Wife, what kind of memoirist do you think the real Ann Eliza Young was?

11. One reviewer has said The 19th Wife is "that rare book that effortlessly explicates and entertains all at once." Do you agree? How does the novel manage this balance?

12. Were you surprised by how the stories of Ann Eliza and Jordan come together? At what point were you able to see the connection?

13. Does Jordan's story end as you hoped it would? Does it end as Jordan hoped it would?

14. What do you think ultimately happened to Ann Eliza Young?

Book Summary
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.
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