The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff (2008)
The novel tells the story of a present day 19th wife, Becky Lyn, who is accused of murdering her husband. Her son, Jordan Scott, comes to her rescue even though he was banished from the polygamous sect at fourteen. He perseveres to find the true killer and save his mother from a disastrous fate.
The author also tells the parallel story of the real Ann Eliza Young, the nineteenth wife of Brigham Young. She was known as the “rebel wife” because she divorced her husband, wrote two autobiographies (the first of which help put pressure on the Mormon community to outlaw polygamy) and gave lectures on the evil ways of a polygamous life.
Histories intertwine, stories are told, and the deep psychological complexities of polygamy are examined in a very entertaining work of fiction. Visit the author’s website to get links to interviews and podcasts with the author, background information, discussion questions, and an excerpt.
For a lighter take on the subject, watch HBO’s television series Big Love, which follows a Salt Lake City man and his three wives. For a true account, check out Shattered Dreams: My Life as a Polygamist’s Wife by Irene Spencer.