“The Nineteenth Wife”: Ann Eliza Young is by some accounts a reformist, by others a “social harlot”

It makes sense, right?  After all don’t the people in society that really push the limits end up being the subject of gossip and criticism?

The Nineteenth Wife is a novel that has 2 stories. The first story set in the mid 1800’s is about our young social reformist/social harlot Ann Eliza Young. She was the 19th wife of Brigham Young, who was the prophet and leader of the Mormon church.  The novel explains how this young woman ended up as his wife and paints the story of what it was like to be in the polygamist culture at the time in history.

The second story is a present day old fashioned murder mystery in which the alleged murderer is also the 19th FLDS wife of another creepy guy.  This story is meant to show the contrast between polygamy in the 1870’s versus today.  The irony is that it really isn’t that different.  In both stories the women fight for the attention of their husband even though they really don’t want it, but his attention increases their power against the other wives in the family.

The reason Ann Eliza Young was painted as a harlot is because she eventually leaves her husband and the church and goes on to write her own autobiograpy in 1875 titled “Wife No. 19”.  She toured the country on a crusade to end polygamy in the U.S.

Was she a social reformist?  A social harlot?  It’s a good read and it in the end you learn a lot about the history of polygamy in this country.


About Anne Loughrey

I am an avid member of several book clubs and a prolific keeper of my books. I love to discuss books and hear what others think of books I have read.
This entry was posted in ann eliza young, book clubs, books, David Ebershoff, the 19th wife. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to “The Nineteenth Wife”: Ann Eliza Young is by some accounts a reformist, by others a “social harlot”

  1. molly andersen says:

    I’ve been on vacations with other families and know how nice it is to have an extra wife around. In fact every wife should have a wife. We all know why there are no polygamy marriages with 19 husbands! Can you imagine the laundry, bathroom, and kitchen areas? I’d like to see that on a reality tv show.
    All kidding aside this book taught me a lot about the history of polygamy and had a great mystery as well. I liked the dual stories and recommend it for a good summer read.

  2. David Boser says:

    I will be reading this one, Annie!

  3. Molly, I love your comments about how nice it would be to have another wife, so true. Of course YOU are the reason I read this book in the first place, you have been a very good book recommender! David, I think you will like this one, there is a lot to talk about!

  4. Zachary Pepe says:

    The librarian at my school gave this book to me and insisted I read it and I was surprised that I liked it. My 6th graders made fun of me and said it looked like a “chick book” but what do they know? What really surprised me about it was the fact that about 3/4 of the book was just excerpts from Ann Eliza Young’s book and that it was far more interesting than the modern day murder mystery that went along with it.

    • I love it when people insist I read a book and I end up liking it, especially those that are out of genre for me. I like it that you have pushed me outside of my genre too! Thanks for the comment.

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