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Saturday, 11 April 2009

The 19th Wife

I have been working my way through this doorstop of a book for quite some time now and I'm finally nearing the end. It's by David Ebershoff and is about the Mormons past and present and polygamy.

Jordan - an outcast from the Firsts - the polygamous bit of the Latter Day Saints - has heard his mother, a 19th wife, has been arrested for the murder of his father. He feels she could not possibly have done it and sets out to prove she's innocent. His story is interweaved with that of the 19th wife of Brigham Young - Ann Eliza. She escaped from the sect and travelled round America giving talks on the evil of polygamy. As a result of the publicity the church was forced to disown the practice and today it is only the Firsts who continue to practice it even though it is technically illegal in America.

It was this sect which hit the headlines last year because of the child abuse accusations which were subsequently found not to be true. It fascinates me that this way of life can continue even though it is illegal. If people want to live like that I have no problem from a moral point of view but judging by the small spate of autobiographies which have been published over the last few years by people who have escaped, it is far from clear whether people live like this of their own free will. That I do have a problem with.

Even tho this book is marketed as fiction it is clear a lot of it is fact and based on recorded testimonies. I've found it interesting though if you have no interest in this murky part of America's past and present you might find it a little dry.

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