By Brady Udall
W.W Norton & Company, Inc.
In honor of my recent addiction to Sister Wives on TLC, I read The Lonely Polygamist by Brady Udall. I browsed the jacket description of this book and was fascinated...a polygamist with four wives who has, of all things, an affair. Honestly, I can't even imagine a man having enough time or energy for four women, let alone five (plus the challenges of keeping the 5th one a secret from the other four!!) It sounded hilarious and I thought I'd check it out.
So I started into the book and, frankly, I was a little disappointed. There were a lot of really sad things that had happened to the main character (a death of a child, a stillbirth, a wife who is a bit of a mental case). It didn't turn out to be quite the comedy I was expecting.
The main character, Golden Richards, lives in a somewhat typical polygamist community near Virgin, Utah (as an aside, I have a great photo of one of my husband's buddies standing in front of the Virgin, Utah, sign back when they were teenagers. This poor, teenage boy had lost a bet and had to stand in front of the "Virgin" sign and have his picture taken.....hilarious). Anyway, Golden owns three houses for his four wives and shuffles between them, always spread too thin to really do much good (I imagine this is a fairly accurately painted picture). Golden's construction business isn't doing so well, so he ends up having to take a job outside of town. And that's when the trouble begins.....just up the road a bit.....in Nevada......where prostitution is legal.
I won't spoil the story here, but suffice it to say that Golden's situation reminds me of that old story about how a lie spreads itself around and comes back to haunt you. Golden allows one little inkling of bad thoughts enter his mind. Then another slips in. Then another and another, until he isn't quite sure exactly what kind of person he really is. And those little thoughts definitely come back to haunt him in the end.
I was disappointed with the ending. It was quite sad and depressing. And it sure made me feel sorry for just about anyone who lives this kind of life (even the happy-go-lucky Brown family on Sister Wives). But generally-speaking, it was an enjoyable read. Probably a little higher ranking for someone interested in the topic, and lower ranking for someone who really thinks polygamists are quack jobs.
"The Lonely Polygamist" is a tremendous literary success that is also undeniable entertainment. Again, this invokes John Irving in my mind. I laughed out loud frequently, but took to heart the seriousness of the story. As much as anything, "Lonely" is about coming to terms with who you are and what you value. Its humanistic themes are easily recognizable and identifiable. So, no matter what your views are about polygamy in general, this is a book to be enjoyed and savored. I loved it!ReplyDelete