Monday, November 15, 2010
Golden Richards is overwhelmed. Living his life as a polygamist Mormon, Golden has four wives, each of whom present him with different difficulties, and twenty-seven unruly children whose behavior closely resembles a tribe of lemmings. Golden, a shy and reserved man, is having trouble resigning himself to the life he has chosen to lead and finds himself leaning towards thoughts of an extramarital affair. But as can be expected, just when he arrives at a decision, his life quickly begins to spiral our of control. One of his wives is becoming increasingly distraught at the lack of attention he gives to her, while one begins to rule the roost with an iron fist. His eleven year old son Rusty is on a campaign of misbehavior and deviance that makes even the most seasoned of the mothers blush, and Golden finds himself secretly working as a contractor building a whorehouse. As Golden tries to navigate his crazy existence, he discovers that nothing is simple, easy or concise. As his family wiggles its way into more and more complicated situations, it will be up to Golden to herd them all into some semblance of order. Outrageous, hilarious and at times very sad, The Lonely Polygamist is a luminescent novel of startling clarity and wonderful originality.
I fell in love with this book from its very first pages. Golden and his family were just a hot mess to read about. From the warring factions of children wearing down the dining room carpet into a racetrack to Rusty's absconding with a box full of the other children's shoes during a showdown with one of his mothers, there was scarcely a bit of the text that was not imbued with something outrageous. Though the book was filled with all kinds of unlikely events, it never felt over the top or forced. Instead, Udall began building the crescendo of the plot into a towering and unpredictable story that filled the pages with deft humor and unexpected humbleness.
One of the things I liked most about this book was the way that Udall seemed to capture so many emotions so well in his story. There was humor, of course, but also despondency, sadness, humility, wonder and honesty. He manages to capture all the frailties of Golden's life with a clear and no-nonsense forthrightness. There isn't a lot of time spent in pointless cogitation, because frankly, a man with four wives and twenty-seven children just doesn't have that kind of time. Instead, Golden and his family soldier on, meeting the troubles of their lives head on. Before reading this book, I couldn't even begin to imagine what life as a polygamist Mormon would be like, but with Udall's colorful interpretation of Golden and his family, I quickly began to get the picture. All the aspects of plural marriage were described in such a way as to not only educate the reader, but to pull them into the lives of this unlikely tribe called a family.
Udall got full use and range out of his characters, penning them with ferocity and originality and leaving no room to wonder about their thoughts and motives. I think I liked Rusty the best. He was just a crazy little dude with imagination and hormones racing ahead at full speed. Every time I saw his story on the page, I knew I would just be wafted away in his tenacity and indignance, and his sections had me laughing out loud with astonishment and glee. I think everyone can relate to Rusty. Who can forget being eleven and being at the mercy of restrictive parents and cruel siblings? Rusty gets himself into a great many unlikely situations and always seems to handle himself with a certain forced composure that I relished. From his crush on one of the mothers to the incident with his older sister's underwear, Rusty is an undeniably original and wonderful creation.
Though the book is often funny, Udall does a great job dabbling with more serious emotions. As Golden struggles to find his way, he loses himself in the impossible sadness that his life has brought him. From the unexpected deaths of two of his children to the fruitless wishing for freedom, Golden has much more to worry about than his wild and extensive brood. I think that most people have a certain perception of polygamists but Golden doesn't fit that mold at all. He is self-disparaging, meek and wayward, clumsily leading his family along like a blind general. Golden is just as fallible as any man, but what's refreshing is his humbleness and modesty. He wants to be able to give his family his all, to give them sustenance and be their protection, but he finds himself stumbling under the load that he has accepted, fruitlessly losing all composure just when he needs it most.
I can't say how wonderful and enriching this book was. Not only did I find myself snorting with laughter, I also found myself teary-eyed with grief while reading it. Udall's book is filled with richness and complexity and has some of the most unforgettable characters I have ever come across. Do yourself a favor and pick up this wonderful novel, you'll be glad you did! A perfect light read.
This book was provided as a complimentary review copy.
Posted by Zibilee at 8:00 AM