Title: The Lonely Polygamist
Author: Brady Udall
Publisher: WW Norton & Company
Quick Review: 4.5 stars (out of 5)
Why I Read It: I heard a lot of good things about it online, plus being Mormon myself I was attracted to it on a whole other level.
Where I Obtained the Book: From my local library
Synopsis: Golden Richards, husband to four wives, father to twenty-eight children, is having the mother of all midlife crises. His construction business is failing, his family has grown into an overpopulated mini-dukedom beset with insurrection and rivalry, and he is done in with grief: due to the accidental death of a daughter and the stillbirth of a son, he has come to doubt the capacity of his own heart. Brady Udall, one of our finest American fiction writers, tells a tragicomic story of a deeply faithful man who, crippled by grief and the demands of work and family, becomes entangled in an affair that threatens to destroy his family’s future. Like John Irving and Richard Yates, Udall creates characters that engage us to the fullest as they grapple with the nature of need, love, and belonging.
Review: Typically a polygamy centered book will focus on our perceptions as outsiders on what a family in that situation must be; domineering father, submissive wives, and abused children. That view overlooks what is at the heart of polygamy when taken at face value, and that is family. Family is the home for our greatest loves, our greatest triumphs, and sadly our greatest tragedies. In my mind family and dysfunctional are the same thing, the strength comes from how we address and conquer those problems. Golden Richards’ family has all of that, just four times over.
At the death of a child Golden becomes a man adrift, lost in a sea of wives and children. Being physically apart from his family on a construction job during the week doesn’t help his fractured sense of self. Of course when the patriarch is virtually gone, the matriarchs soon follow with petty jealousies and misplaced priorities. Power creates a vacuum which must be filled. The consequence is the 28 children soon begin to break out into factions.
Through their trials and tribulations, along with a large dose of humor and an interesting cast of characters, Udall brings about a redemption. A family while not healed, it is definitely in recovery. While not necessarily sympathetic to polygamy, Udall is respectful; and that is the genius in this fantastic novel.
Author Biography: Brady Udall is the author of Letting Loose the Hounds, The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint, an international bestseller, and the newly released The Lonely Polygamist. His work has appeared in The Paris Review, Playboy, GQ and Esquire, and his stories and essays have been featured on National Public Radio’s This American Life. He teaches in the MFA program at Boise State University, and lives in Boise, Idaho and Teasdale, Utah with his wife and children.