The 19th Wife
by David Ebershoff
(Random House, $26)
David Ebershoff’s “engrossing” new novel resurrects a remarkable 19th-century woman, said Ron Charles in The Washington Post. Ann Eliza Young was only 24 when she became the 19th wife of 67-year-old Brigham Young. Five years later, she sued for divorce and “devoted herself to destroying” the Mormon leader and the plural marriages he championed. Her fierce voice often carries Ebershoff’s book, which toggles between gripping history and a murder mystery set in a 21st-century Mormon cult community. Though “jarringly incongruous” on one level, the contemporary tale lets Ebershoff explore profound questions about all forms of doctrinal faith. Too bad Ebershoff overstuffs his already fat novel with pages of invented ephemera, said Janet Maslin in The New York Times. He uses Ann Eliza Young’s actual 1875 memoir effectively, but passages ostensibly cribbed from old letters and a university thesis only convey “the exhaustive, arid scholarly process of looking things up.” Though admirably ambitious, The 19th Wife is never “greater than the sum of its parts.”
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