Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Lonely Polygamist by Brady Udall

Before I start my review, let me just say. . .good job W. W. Norton & Company.  Physically, this is the most well-constructed book I've read in ages.  The binding is tight, the book falls open naturally and stays open.  The font is a good size and the margins are nice and big.  The pages are a nice bright ivory that don't show signs of yellowing (at least not yet).  It was a pleasure to read, which is especially nice since it was 602 pages.

Now for the story.  Think the HBO series Big Love but funnier and at times, more poignant.Golden Richards has four wives and twenty-some-odd children and is--I know this sounds crazy--considering an affair.  He's never been a big decision maker and life just seems to "happen" to him.  His first wife, Beverly, was the result of his father's death (long story) and Beverly wanted a big family so she arranged for more wives.  Things just kind of snowballed. This affair he's thinking of (though has not acted on) is more of a way to escape his current life and perhaps restart his life as a "normal" man with one wife somewhere else.

Photo Credit
Meanwhile, we gain insight into the lives of each of Golden's wives.  There is Beverly who has posted signage everywhere reminding Golden to wipe his feet, close the lid, etc. etc.  Yet, she is harboring a dark past which comes to light by the end of the book.  Then there are the sisters, Nola and Rose-of-Sharon.  Nola is overweight and compensates by having an even larger personality.  Meanwhile, Rose-of-Sharon quietly fades more and more into the woodwork and is constantly on the verge of another nervous breakdown.  Finally, there's Trish who is only 27.  She was raised a "plyg kid" but when her father died, her mother gave up the principle and moved with Trish to Reno where they lived a Vegas-style life.  Trish marries too young and ends up divorcing only to land back into the polygamist community with her young daughter.  Each wife has her own motivations and hopes and disappointments, particularly as they pertain to Golden.

Finally, we get a beautifully depicted portrait of eleven-year-old Rusty, or "Son #5."  He's the one setting off firecrackers, trying on his sister's underwear (because at least they have clean, nice things), and generally causing mayhem in order to get some attention from his parents.

All of these intertwining stories give a true picture of what it means to be part of a family, particularly showing how family members can both smother and support you.  It also examines why we stay in a marriage even when it seems too difficult. And somehow, it does all this with a humorous tone.  I was laughing out loud at points and reading passages to my husband (poor guy--he was trapped with me on a long car trip).

I liked this book a lot, but then I'm all about a large cast of quirky characters.

<I checked this book out of my library.>


  1. This was my favorite book of 2010. I still have that image of the boy at the window...

    1. This book will stick with me for a long time. I just loved it.