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  • Title: The 19th Wife (TV Movie 2010)
  • ITWO WIVESThe 19th WifePreface to the First Edition
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The 19th Wife: A Novel


This audio version is well-handled by using more than one performer, as there are more than one narrative strands here. There is the modern strand: a lively amateur sleuth mystery about a young man who had once been tossed out of a polygamous community, but who goes back to exonerate his mother, who is falsely accused of murder. And there is the historical strand: the real-life story of Ann Eliza Young, the 19th polygamous wife of Brigham Young, who wrote a notorious memoir and gave lectures that had a great deal to do with Mormonism's eventual decision to discontinue polygamy. I had actually purchased this book expecting two fictional narratives interwoven with each other. What I found instead was a modern fictional narrative interwoven with a mostly factual historical narrative. Even though the story of Ann Eliza Young is fascinating, it is nevertheless a problem that Ebershoff makes such extensive use of what is after all the writing of someone else. And as for the modern fictional narrative, while it begins well, it resolves in a way I found unsatisfactory. Even so, the novel as a whole is worth a listen because of how perceptive it is about the problems of polygamy and the questions it raises about the two original prophets of Mormonism, namely Joseph Smith and Brigham Young. These two men accomplished amazing things (especially Young), but they also introduced the odious practice of polygamy into their faith, a self-serving decision which very nearly resulted in the destruction of that same faith.

Mr. EBERSHOFF: That's right. He has a reason for being kind of a wreck. He - when he was 14, he was excommunicated. And he's one of what are called the "lost boys." And he's living in California, he's put it all behind him and one day he's surfing the Web and he goes to the Web site of the local newspaper near his polygamist community and he sees his mom on the homepage, and he sees that his mom, who is a 19th wife, has been arrested for killing his dad. And he - something overcomes him and he has to return and find out what happened.


David Ebershoff's Novel 'The 19th Wife' : NPR

Leigh underwent her own transformation during the shooting of The 19th Wife. “It ended up being a really big journey for me,” she explains. “As an actor, to be able to kind of step out of the mold of being in television — you know, you get kind of used to the same thing, in a sense, and it was really refreshing coming back to Grey’s this season after having done this movie. I just felt so challenged as an actor, but at the same time, really rejuvenated.”