Poor Golden Richards! His four wives don’t get along. His 28 children are constantly fighting with each other, and his construction business is doing so poorly he’s had to take a job 200 miles from home building a brothel in Nevada. He’s had to lie to his family about what he’s actually doing. The fact that he is working so far away means that he is only home on weekends, so he is unable to spend time with his wives, which only makes matters worse. Uncle Chick, the leader of his “church” is trying to convince him to take a fifth wife, a woman in their community who already has two children and has been abandoned by her husband.
Can life get any more complicated for this man? Yes it can. His years of passivity have led to the point where he is unable to make a decision about anything. His own upbringing has left him poorly educated and unable to deal with the business he has inherited. He spent his childhood waiting for an absent father, and now he has become that absent father.
I had never heard of Brady Udall, but he has created an amazing book. The Lonely Polygamist takes place in the 1970’s. Udall has recreated that time so that it really is alive (although I guess you had to be there). Although most of this book is quite sad, there are some parts that are laugh out loud funny. The Richards family is poor, and torn by tragedy. Two children have died. The remaining children are unsupervised, ill-fed and poorly clothed. And this community expects Golden and his wives to keep reproducing.
Life for the Richards clan has to get much worse before it gets better. Although this book is quite long (602 pages in hardcover) it is worth it. Sometimes the story gets bogged down by extraneous characters and situations, but I still recommend it.
Thanks once again to LibraryThing Early Reviewers for sending me this book.
Published in hardcover-W.W. Norton-2010