Thursday, August 5, 2010
The Lonely Polygamist by Brady Udall
OK, this is the book of the summer for me. It might even turn out to be the book of the year for me. The author has ancestral ties to the old Mormon church in Utah, and maybe that's how he's been able to make it seem as if you're really stepping into that world behind the walls of a large polygamist family compound. In an earlier post I reviewed the book The Nineteenth Wife by David Ebershoff. Whereas the modern-day portion of that book was set mostly outside the grounds of the Mormon church and its family compounds, this one is right smack dab in the middle of it. We have our main character Golden Richards; an innocent, bumbling hulk of a man who is overwhelmed by his four wives and his 28 children, and all the bills they come with. Every character is finely etched, right down to Cooter the bug-eyed dog, and four-year-old Ferris who revels in running around with no pants on with all the joy of an escaped convict. There's one wife, Trish, who is a bit more in focus than the others, and we see a lot of the Richards family through her eyes. And then there's Rusty, the young boy who gives us an entirely different view of this cloistered world. In The Nineteenth Wife, we saw more of the darker side of plural marriage, the Lost Boys, etc. In this book, we see a lighter side, in that the many members of the Richards family are all good people at heart. But, when you have that many children and wives, how can everyone feel validated? That is the question. And what are the consequences? To find that out, you'll have to dive into this story. And to entice you a bit further, there are a lot of funny and poignant moments in this book. I couldn't put it down.