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The 19th Wife: Summary

Everything you need to know about David Ebershoff's The 19th Wife, in 1 paragraph.
An illustration of a reader enjoying The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff in a cosy interior
A reader enjoying The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff
The 19th Wife is a gripping story of mystery and suspense that follows the life of Jordan Scott, a young man who has been brought up in an isolated polygamous community. His mother, Ann Eliza, was cast out of the church as the 19th wife of its leader, after which she wrote a book condemning polygamy. When Jordan's father is accused of murdering his 19th wife, he turns to Ann Eliza for help. As secrets unravel and danger mounts, Jordan must confront his conflicted feelings about his mother and the beliefs of his community in order to uncover the truth.

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What is The 19th Wife about?

The 19th Wife is a historical fiction novel that examines the story of polygamy in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS). It follows two intertwined storylines. The first follows Jordan Scott, a young man whose mother, Ann Eliza Young, was the nineteenth wife of Brigham Young. Jordan must confront his own beliefs while he works to clear his mother’s name after she is accused of killing her husband. The second storyline follows BeckyLyn, a modern-day teenager who discovers she may be descended from one of Brigham Young’s wives. The novel explores themes such as religious faith and practice, gender roles and expectations in Mormonism, the struggles for acceptance in a patriarchal society, and the search for identity and ultimately truth. The 19th Wife also examines the impact of polygamy on individuals and families, and its legacy in contemporary culture.

The 19th Wife: Book Club Questions

  1. How does the narrative structure of The 19th Wife allow readers to form different perspectives on polygamy?
  2. What is the significance of the title of the novel?
  3. How are Jordan and Becky's research journeys similar and different?
  4. How do the character's struggles with faith shape their actions in the novel?
  5. What is the role of secrets in The 19th Wife?
  6. Are all of the characters in The 19th Wife successful in coming to terms with their pasts?
  7. What is the relationship between religion and justice in this novel?
  8. In what ways does The 19th Wife explore themes of identity and belonging?
  9. How does Ebershoff use language to evoke emotion in his characters' stories?
  10. Is there a resolution to Jordan and Ann's quest for justice at the end of The 19th Wife?

What to say about The 19th Wife

  • The 19th Wife was a captivating exploration of polygamy, religion and family secrets.
  • I was impressed by the level of detail in Ebershoff's research for this novel.
  • I found the juxtaposition between modern and historical Utah to be particularly poignant.
  • There were many unexpected plot twists that kept me on my toes throughout the book.
  • The 19th Wife shines a light on the stigma associated with polygamy and exposes its complexity in a way that is both thought-provoking and entertaining.
  • The characters were incredibly well-developed; each had a unique perspective that added to the story as a whole.
  • The novel examines how faith can be used to manipulate and control people, while still allowing them to choose their own paths in life.
  • The themes of inheritance, identity and redemption were woven together beautifully in this book.
  • I found it interesting how the concept of 'truth' was explored from multiple perspectives in The 19th Wife.
  • Overall, David Ebershoff has crafted an enjoyable and gripping read with The 19th Wife!

Top 5 Quotes from The 19th Wife

  1. "You can't love someone you don't understand."
  2. "History is full of secrets, and perhaps it's best to leave them buried."
  3. "The truth sometimes lies in the gaps between what we want to believe and what we know to be true."
  4. "Love is a lesson we all have to learn, in whatever way works best for us."
  5. "It isn't easy to find your own faith, but it's much harder to lose it."

Adaptations of The 19th Wife

1. The 19th Wife (TV Movie, 2010) - A two-hour television movie adaptation of the novel aired on the Lifetime network in 2010, starring Chyler Leigh and Matt Czuchry. 2. The 19th Wife Radio Drama (2013) - This radio drama adaptation was broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in 2013. It was directed by John Taylor and featured performances from a star-studded cast including David Tennant, Tom Hollander, and Sarah Smart. 3. The 19th Wife Podcast (2017) - A podcast adaptation of the novel was released in 2017. Produced by Audible Originals, it is a full cast audio drama featuring narration by Emma Fielding and performances from the likes of Neil Stuke and Harry Lloyd. 4. The 19th Wife Theatre Adaptation (2019) - An off-Broadway theatrical adaptation of the novel opened in 2019 at the 59E59 Theater in New York City. Directed by Rachel Chavkin, it starred Cameron Scoggins and Gillian Williams as Jordan Scott and Ann Eliza Young respectively.

Other books by David Ebershoff

  • The Danish Girl
  • The Rose City
  • Pasadena
  • The War of the Worlds: New & Definitive Edition
  • Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher: The Epic Life and Immortal Photographs of Edward Curtis
  • The Winter Palace: A Novel of Catherine the Great
  • My Darling Detective

Did you know?


The 19th Wife was the first original novel from Random House to be released simultaneously in print and digital formats.