I really enjoyed reading this book about the lives of Mormons affected by polygamy. The author switches back and forth between two compelling stories - one set in the 1800s and the start of Mormonism and one set in modern times amid a breakoff sect of polygamists. I was completely caught up in both stories and couldn't wait to see what happened in each.
The novel is set mostly in Utah, though the historical storyline begins in eastern states and follows the early Prophets Joseph Smith and Brigham Young as they gather followers and move west to build their Zion.
Each story holds as its common thread a 19th wife of a polygamist, though we learn those numbers are fluid. Ann Eliza Young, a 19th wife of Brigham Young, witnesses the heartbreak of multiple marriages as a child and seeks to avoid it in her adulthood. She ends up married to the prophet and divorces him, taking her tale of neglect to the rest of the nation. She is a real person who wrote a memoir about her experiences, entitled Wife No. 19. We also get to hear the perspectives of her family members and Brigham Young through their letters.
Jordan Scott, a 20-year-old son of a polygamist father and his 19th wife, narrates the modern tale. His mother is charged with killing her husband and Jordan helps to figure out the truth. After being kicked out of the small community in Utah six years earlier, Jordan never expected to return and revisit painful memories and people from his past. Boys are often kicked out to level out the number of available girls/women for the few men to marry. Despite Jordan's pain, he begins to form relationships and open himself up with those he meets.
Although the novel is long (500 pages), I recommend this page-turner to anyone interested in learning more about the beginnings of the Mormon religion and a good mystery.
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