Another ARC -- this one took me a very, very long time to get through. I read about a third of the way through it, got bored with the set-up, and it took me about two months to pick it up again. This was strange to me, as the Firsts are one of those things I enjoy investigating. I'm getting ahead of myself, though.
The 19th Wife explores the story of Ann Eliza Young, a 19th-century woman whose apostasy from the Mormon faith eventually led to her writing a memoir exposing the truths (as she saw them) of polygamy, or plural marriage. She had been married to Brigham Young, one of the big names of the faith, so naturally this caused an uproar. Ann Eliza comes across as mostly likeable in this novel, and her narrative is easy enough to follow.
Her story is told and intertwined with a present-day murder mystery, when a Fundamentalist husband is shot and killed. The voice for this story is a boy named Jordan -- the murder victim is his father, and the main suspect in the shooting is his mother, one of the victim's many wives. As the book progresses, Jordan gets closer to the truth. This storyline does wrap up satisfactorily, albeit a little too quickly for my tastes.
Mixed in with these two storylines are a few other minor ones; this wouldn't be noteworthy except that each one employs a different narrative voice. It all works together eventually, but until you get a good half-way into the novel, it can be a bit confusing, especially with all the different names you have to keep track of.
All in all The 19th Wife is a pretty solid read, although I'd venture to say the plodding set-up (where the history of Mormonism is concerned, especially) will turn off anyone who does not already have in interest in the subject matter. Calling a narrative voice into question, as Ebershoff does, more or less, late in the novel, is an interesting spin -- I was thinking it would be interesting to reread the book with that in mind, but honestly am not THAT interested in it. That pretty much sums up the book, actually: by the end, I was thinking, "Huh, this would be a good candidate for a reread, with all this new knowledge I've gained in mind." But I'm just not compelled enough to go for it.
It was a solid novel, and enjoyable once it finished setting the scene. (I did rip through the last half in two days, after all.) I'm glad I finished it. It's not a keeper, but it was worthwhile.