Once a month, I have grownup time with my book club. I look forward to it, both for the company of friends and for intelligent discussion of books meant for adults. And I’m thinking – who couldn’t use some of that?
So I’m going to start talking grownup books once in a while so you can virtually come along and meet some of my book club circle and read about some books we’ve tried out. If you want to meet them all and get our book lists in advance, as well as some extra material and occasional discussions, check out our facebook page.
Meanwhile, let me introduce our January host, Karen. Karen is a copywriter, author of the blog The Kids Are Alright (funny, touching, and opinionated – I love her), and newly minted member of The Bad Moms’ Club. Karen hosted in her funky east-end house with tasty treats, a themed song to play for us, and a slight obsession with sister-wives, as evidenced by her Blissdom Canada costume earlier this year. Her book pick?
The 19th Wife
by David Ebershoff
The 19th Wife is a strangely blended novel, with a historical fiction and a modern mystery that run in parallel. It works, in that the historical background has led to the context for the murder, and they centre on the same theme of polygamy.
Many of us wondered why the author created some fictitious documents and sources alongside the real book written by Brigham Young’s 19th wife, who left the Mormon church and became a vocal opponent of the practice of plural marriage. Her story, though, is fascinating, and leads into the climate in the church that created smaller sects of polygamists, while the more mainstream Mormon religion rejected the practice. I generally enjoy this kind of historical fiction, and her part of the story was well-told.
The more modern part of the story was set in the context of one of those small groups of polygamists, which is fascinating, if scary, and the character who narrated these sections is quite sympathetic. This section had parts that left a lot of us with questions about motivations and logistics, but we also felt that the murder’s solution and the piece of information that it hinged on were cleverly done.
This novel was an engaging read, and gave lots of back story, so that as a reader, I felt like I was getting a really complete and thorough history of the church, and the intertwining of the two stories worked well. The one thing that I did keep waiting to read and wish had been present was the other side of the plural marriage discussion – I would have liked to meet a sister wife who found her situation pleasing not only because it was her duty, but because the arrangement worked for her, and that was definitely missing. Instead, my feeling was that the novel, while a really good read and not as heavy as it could be with these themes, was something of a scathing indictment of polygamy, and I would have liked to see some balance, since this left me wondering about the author’s background, research, and prejudices.
One of our members discovered a made-for-TV movie of the book, but upon watching a bit of it, we overwhelmingly felt it was not a very faithful adaptation at all, and that the novel was much richer, so if you see the movie? don’t judge the book by that – it’s definitely an interesting 500 pages.
Next month’s title: Secret Daughter, by Shilpi S. Gowda.