Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Lonely Polygamist

Golden Richards, the “lonely polygamist” of Brady Udall’s second novel and third published work of fiction, is not only lonesome but also many other things that, ideally, a patriarch and apostle of the Lord would not be: indecisive, feckless, withdrawn and hesitant. All of which puts his four wives in the excruciating position of having to beg him, often, to “embrace his God-given patriarchal authority” and “make a decision once in a while.” At one time it seemed as if Golden, a mammoth, unkempt man referred to as Sasquatch by one of his sons, might be the One Mighty and Strong, a venerated figure in the poly­gamist society that broke off from Mormonism in 1890 after plural marriage was banned, to be “delivered from on high to set in order the house of God.” He is still a leading figure in this particular not very well-off community in the far south­western corner of Utah, near both Arizona and Nevada, as a member of the Council of the Twelve that now, rather sadly, comprises only eight.

Udall’s novel forces readers to contend for its 600 pages with two dissonant stories: the exceptional tale of an exceptional family, part of a phenomenon so minuscule and remote a part of American society as to be freakish, known only by lurid headlines torn from the news; and, more conventionally, the story of a family man’s burnout, temptation and redemption. This family man just happens to have four nuclear families, which makes his midlife crisis and ensuing affair a little more complicated than most.

- Eric Weinberger, The New York Times

Read the rest of the review here.

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