Wow! Was I ever surprised by this book. I expected it to be just so-so, and instead it was a well-researched and fascinating work of historical fiction, with a parallel modern day murder mystery thrown in. I loved it!
Author David Ebershoff embarks on the tale of the early Mormons and their establishment in Utah in the late 19th century. These early settlers believed in and practiced polygamy, it’s leaders like Brigham Young taking more than 20 wives. This is the story of Young’s 19th wife, Eliza Ann, who was forced to marry young through nefarious means and eventually escaped and divorced the prophet. Her story is totally engrossing and thought-provoking.
Simultaneously, Ebershoff writes another storyline, this time about a modern day cult – an offshoot of the Mormons who defiantly practice polygamy in a tight-knit and secretive society. This community who call themselves “the Firsters” are meant to be similar to the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS). whose leader Warren Jeffs was arrested and convicted of sex crimes when his polygamist community was disbanded by the authorities. When one of the church leaders is murdered, his 19th wife is arrested and charged with the crime. The story unravels as her excommunicated son attempts to find out the truth.
What a fantastic work of historical fiction! I was totally in engrossed in Ebershoff’s portrayal of the past and the present. Highly recommend!
4 stars (out of 5)
Published in 2008