When I was 19, I joined the Mormon Church because I wanted to marry my high school girlfriend. Predictably, the whole thing went south and I ran away to the East Coast, leaving the Mormons behind. Or so I thought. Warren Jeffs's recent arrest and the FLDS compound raid put Mormonism in the headlines and on everyone's lips. And then a galley of David Ebershoff's wonderful new novel, The 19th Wife [Random House, Aug.], arrived. Ebershoff masterfully moves between two narratives that ultimately become one: the memoir of Ann Eliza Young, Brigham Young's 19th wife (which gives a human voice to the faith's struggle with polygamy, an issue that continues to haunt the religion today) and a riveting modern murder mystery as taut and deft as any whodunit. The 19th Wife is the heir apparent to The Red Tent and, like The Da Vinci Code, is that rare book that effortlessly explicates and entertains all at once.
Volume 255 Issue 26 06/30/2008