Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Lonely Polygamist

This is a dang good read, hilarious and heart wrenching (clichés , I know, but these two words do sum up the gripping charm of this book). It’s the best book I’ve read in recent years. Put away all your stereotypes about polygamy and jump in and start loving these unexpected characters.

The book is written from three alternating perspectives: Golden, the “sweet, bewildered, and thoroughly overwhelmed” patriarch and protagonist who wrestles with grief and temptation (thanks for those perfect adjectives, David J. Loftus, Amazon reviewer); Trish, his youngest and prettiest wife, smart, spunky, grieving, seeking refuge; and Rusty, almost twelve and utterly misunderstood as he vies for attention with outrageously boyish and ultimately tragic antics.

I don’t know how Udall so fully comprehends these three completely different individuals, but somehow he gets their voices just right. You can’t help loving them, no matter how crazy, ridiculous, pathetic, or damaging they are. They are each so good, trying so hard to make a good place for themselves in this world. These characters and their intertwining stories make you laugh and cringe and cry.

Udall also gifts you with a huge cast of other memorable characters, from the kind, wise sheriff to the happy, practical Mexicans to the other three sister wives: the unbending rock, the clown, and the delicate petal.

Most incredible of all, he makes all these people and their plights feel familiar.

That's the real gift of this story and this family-- it's us. No, we might not be fundamentalists sharing a husband with sister-wives. But we do grieve, shut down, try to escape, long to be included, stray from the straight and narrow, make cataclysmic mistakes, and fiercely love our kids. What a great author to plop us down in the craziness, and then make it human for us. (thanks again, this time to Rebecca on Goodreads)

Oh, and he does all this in pitch-perfect prose. So do yourself a favor and pick up this funny, tragic, hopeful, big-hearted book. Fall into the couch and plan on staying there til it’s over.

(Fair warning: There’s a generous dose of sex and swearing. But, in its fundamental morals, the book holds to a pretty conservative standard.)


Blogger Lisa said...

I probably never would have considered this book if not for your review, Ched. Because polygamy...ugh. But I'm convinced! Also, I didn't recognize the author's name at first, but I have read his other novel, The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint, and it was pretty great.

Blogger Cheri said...

I was vaguely aware of Edgar Mint but hadn't gotten around to reading it. Might not have paid attention to Lonely Polygamist either, but for my Mormon-lit-reading friends. But apparently Udall's made quite a splash in the larger lit world, is considered one of America's best right now or something. So Edgar Mint's good too? Tell me more.

Blogger Lisa said...

Well I can't remember it super well, but it's about a Native American boy whose head is run over by a mail truck when he's just a little guy and he survives but life is kinda hard. It's been awhile, but it was recommended to me by a trustworthy reader, and I remember liking it too.


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