MOUNT VERNON — “The 19th Wife” by David Ebershoff is the featured novel for the Adult Book Discussion on Tuesday, Feb. 15, at 7 p.m. at the Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County, 201 N. Mulberry St.
This unusual novel opens with 20-year-old Jordan Scott reading the news online, when he sees a photo of a woman being placed in a police car. Suddenly he realizes that it’s his mother! He hasn’t seen her since she and his father left him by the side of the highway with $17 in his pocket at the age of 14.
Jordan had been raised in Utah in a polygamous Mormon sect — an extremist offshoot of the contemporary Mormon Church. Jordan’s mother was number 19 of is father’s 25 or so wives, and Jordan was raised with about 100 siblings. It’s a very different upbringing. Sadly, Jordan was excommunicated for a nonexistent offense, and cast out from his home, his family, and the life he’d known. But he’s a survivor, and has made a life for himself in Los Angeles.
Now he sees that his mother has been arrested for the murder of his father, and he realizes that he must return home and face his past. He visits his mother in jail, and she tells him, “I didn’t do it!” and begs for his help. With all the conflicted feelings one could imagine, Jordan begins his own investigation into the murder case, bringing him pain and a fascinating group of friends and allies.
But this is only half the story. Woven into this tale is the fictionalized memoir of Ann Eliza Young, the 19th wife of Brigham Young, one of the early leaders of the Mormon Church, and successor of its founder, Joseph Smith. The very formation of the church through its first several decades is seen through Ann Eliza’s eyes. She was a real historical character, who did write a memoir about her life, her marriage to the decades-older Young, the eventual divorce, and her nationwide crusade against polygamy in the church and in American society.
As Jordan moves closer to the truth about his mother and father, his path intersects with Ann Eliza’s story, and his life is also in danger.
Through extensive research, David Ebershoff has crafted a magnificent story that portrays the inner workings of a closed society and the corruption of power.
The discussion will be led by Ted Didinger of the library’s reference staff.
Copies of “The 19th Wife” can be checked out of the public library; or purchased at Paragraphs Bookstore, 105 S. Main St.; or Colonial Book Shop and Kids’ Shelf, 521 S. Main St., both in Mount Vernon.
The book discussions, sponsored by the Adult Services Department of the public library, are free and open to the public. Refreshments will be served.
For more information call 392-2665, ext. 230.
Published on February 12, 2011