Thursday, January 21, 2010

The 19th Wife: A Novel The 19th Wife: A Novel by David Ebershoff

My rating: 2 of 5 stars
This was an interesting read for me, since as a Mormon, I haven't read literature about Mormonism that wasn't either written by a Mormon or was anti-Mormon literature. So there was more emotional baggage attached to this novel than I'm used to. Still, this novel, while historically enlightening, left a lot to be desired.
There are two tales entertwined--one of Ann Eliza, the 19th wife of Brigham Young, who divorced him and then campaigned vigorously against polygamy. The second is a murder mystery set in the cultish "Firsts" who still practice polygamy in modern day. The historical tale takes up the majority of the book, and is the more interesting of the two. Although it was a "memoir" written to show the abuse Ann Eliza endured as a multiple wife, I thought she came off a bit unsympathetic--selfish and vindictive as opposed to victimized and justified; in some ways it was hard to care about what happened to her. The modern day tale was, in my opinion, not well-developed, most of it was completely unbelieveable, and was wrapped up without much of a climax; even the epilogue left many questions still unanswered.
As far as the treatment of Mormons and Mormon history I have to say Ebershoff was more fair than I thought he'd be. There were even some parts of our history that I discovered as a result of reading this book. As far as the accuracy, the real memoir of Ann Eliza is available for free online, and it only takes a quick skim to see where Ebershoff deviates. Other questions of validity were quickly answered with a few google searches--and he has a quite lengthy note at the end of my copy addressing where he aquired his information.
The main character in the modern day story is gay mainly, I think, to point out the parallels between how early Saints were pressed upon to accept polygamy for their salvation and how gay practices are not tolerated today. So I get that--(although the characters fall into the stereotypes of either flamboyantly gay or clingy and neat, and all hypersexual, and so no one felt like a real person). But why the modern day characters have to swear so much, that I don't get.
In the end, the sole reason I liked this book at all was because it motivated me to read more about the early saints in Salt Lake, and because it prompted a few deep discussions with my husband late at night.

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Thursday, January 7, 2010

Once a Runner

Once a Runner: A Novel Once a Runner: A Novel by John L. Parker

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This was described as the "best novel about running", and I read an excerpt in Runners World that was pretty good. I admit I checked it out hoping to help my motivation but I took the "best novel about running" in stride--add enough adjectives and anything can be the "best". I will readily admit that it's not the best novel--some parts are confusing, the subplot about being kicked out of school isn't very developed and doesn't seem to make much sense--but it may very well be the best novel about running (not that I've read any others--except if you can count The Time Traveler's Wife). Parker captures what it is like to run beautifully. I surely haven't experienced a tenth of what an elite runner must feel like, but Parker described the parts of running I do know so well and so elegantly that I readily believe the rest.

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