The Lonely Polygamist

The Lonely PolygamistThis was the rare occasion when I basically skimmed the last 150 pages just to find out a few key plot points, rather than actually reading, because I was excruciatingly BORED while reading this book The hero, despite having 4 wives, is completely uninteresting a hulking cipher as blank as his improbably shut in childhood without friends or education If he had one wife, instead of 4, this tale of a middle aged schlemiel who has no will, no agency, no real yearnings other than to get with the charmingly tongue tied brown skinned wife of his boss a walking racist cliche would never have been published Absent polygamy, no one would bother dragging through 600 pages of this book the male mid life crisis of incompetence, loneliness and lust has been done to death by far better writers It s the titillation of fundamentalist polygamy how does it really work is it sexy or sinister that makes people pick up this book but that gimmick is just that a gimmick None of the wives become than window dressing and 27 children is 26 than Udall can even be bothered trying to depict.YAWN I need to stop forcing myself to continue reading a book even though I m certain I don t like it By the time I stop reading the books unfinished, of course I m shocked by the amount of time I wasted reading something I don t enjoy.I found The Lonely Polygamist intensely boring I suppose I liked some of the characters I felt for Trish and Rusty, and Golden wasn t an entirely unenjoyable person to read about, but they were all so dull If any of these people were real, I don t think I could hold half of an interesting conversation with them I found myself trudging along, despite the intensely easy writing, and wanted to be doing something other than reading, which I very rarely feel So I skipped to the end, something I can honestly say I have never done before, discovered that everything is hunky dory in the end, which I expected, and put it in my i don t needto hang on to this book pile.Now it s time to cozy up with Cracking the New GRE That one s sure to be a page turner. Beautifully Written, Keenly Observed, And Ultimately Redemptive, The Lonely Polygamist Is An Unforgettable Story Of An American Family With Its Inevitable Dysfunctionality, Heartbreak, And Comedy Pushed To Its Outer LimitsFrom A Luminous Storyteller, A Highly Anticipated New Novel About The American Family Writ Large 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 Beautifully Written, Keenly Observed, And Ultimately Redemptive, The Lonely Polygamist Is An Unforgettable Story Of An American Family With Its Inevitable Dysfunctionality, Heartbreak, And Comedy Pushed To Its Outer Limits Slightly grudgingly, just coz I hate bandwagons literary and otherwise I ll say that this book deserved all the hype it received Here are five things it did well that so many books crash and burn trying to do No 5 It surprised me overall I don t know what I was expecting of a book about polygamous marriage, but I m pretty sure it wasn t this and in the individual details There are a couple of twists in characters and plots that I really didn t see coming.No 4 It built character through scene and dialogue in ways that felt natural and real after my recent experience with Shriver s So Much For That, I needed this Some reviewers have taken Mr Udall to task for focusing on so few characters and leaving the remainder as caricatures, but I disagree If you think about the secondary characters June, Trish, Leo, even Glory, while sketchy they were remarkably varied, and I d say pretty well fleshed out beyond being mere plot devices they had their own stories to tell, right While also being critical to the Golden Rusty plotline I ll give you Huila as perhaps the least successful character in that regard But overall, I thought the secondary characters and plot s successful in their own right while also adding dimension to and resonating with the main story beautifully.No 3 It presented a unique point of view, which if Udall were less deft or compassionate if it was the central focus instead of the milieu could have been reality TV voyeurism that emphasized their otherness instead of docudrama empathy building Because of the essential humanity of each individual character, they as in, fundamentalist Mormons engaged in plural marriage were not a monolithic block of others I take liberties to assume most of the 12 of you reading this are not involved in plural marriages have I got that right Rather, they were individual characters whom we not only felt for, but felt like. They were us or any other large family with its politics, petty squabbles, constantly shifting alliances and power dynamics And she or he was me, in her or his insecurities, feelings of being inadequate or unloved or unsure or angry or sad or scared or lonely In this sense, the docudrama isn t an apt metaphor The plural marriage and fundamentalism were really just setting, context for the story of the family and the individuals in it.No 2 It was a great story In my Goldilocks evaluation, it had just enough depth and complexity to satisfy, not too much to overwhelm or frustrate It had these strange details that seemed like asides an ostrich named Raymond picnics disrupted by atom bomb tests a Mescal swilling Mexican who provides guidance and support at just the right moment , and which could have been too much, too incidental, too over the top but instead added texture to the fabric of the story and were in some ways essential elements without which the whole thing could have fallen apart It hit the sweet spot, at least for me, and in that regard I d probably suggest a comparison with Chabon s The Yiddish Policemen s Union or The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier Clay or Eugenides Middlesex If you liked them, you ll probably like this It carried me along with its twists, turns, segues, digressions, highs and lows.No 1 And speaking of highs and lows lots of reviewers have commented on this, and I have to say it s the dominant literary feature that gives this book its charm and its power It s tragicomic in the most complete and classic sense It is crazy funny, absurd, slapstick, rollicking good fun, while simultaneously in the same paragraph or within one page also poignant, devastating, heartbreaking and achingly sad And the sadness is founded on a kind of alone in a crowd isolation that is just always so so I don t know what the word is Familiar Essential Human Interestingly, it was not just Golden Richards, the titular lonely polygamist, who was lonely it was all of them All of them, in their own ways, which is the loneliest thing of all, isn t it Golden Richards has four wives, twenty eight children, three homes and a failing construction business He takes a job in Nevada, building a brothel and telling his wives that he is constructing a senior citizen center Golden, who had a very lonely and isolated childhood, is now separated from his family and sinking into confusion He develops an attraction for a woman that he sees near the construction site and this complicates an already complicated life even further.Meanwhile, his family is gradually disintegrating, and Golden seems powerless to do anything about it One of the children, eleven year old Rusty, is especially lonely as well, as is Golden s fourth wife Trish, who is contemplating abandoning her husband and the polygamist lifestyle.These are brilliantly drawn characters in an excellent book By turns it is heartbreaking and hilariously funny In particular, the child, Rusty, is a character that will stay with readers for a long time to come Every time he appears you want to reach into the book and adopt him, but at the same time, his hilarious antics and his exceptional voice leave you practically rolling on the floor with laughter.This is really an outstanding book that leaves you rooting for all these characters, and for this admittedly dysfunctional family as they struggle against seemingly impossible odds to survive both as individuals and as members of a loving family that only wants to live happily ever after. I m always eager to read a book with local ties As the title of BYU graduate Brady Udall s most recent novel, The Lonely Polygamist, suggests, his critically acclaimed work most definitely has themes central to Utah history and culture I picked up this book wondering how successful Udall would be in making his central character, Golden Richards, a husband to four and father to twenty eight, who still manages time to develop an extra marital relationship, at all likeable Udall succeeds admirably in creating Golden and his other characters I came to like Golden, and pity him too, even while finding him immensely frustrating at times The story is told from three viewpoints, those of Golden, his fourth wife Trish, and one of his sons, eleven year old Rusty Trish is well drawn and relatable, but it is Rusty who steals the show and stole my heart I challenge any reader to get through this book without tears and without wishing you could give Rusty a much needed hug Bottom line Udall succeeds in making the sprawling Richards family and their many struggles some of them tragic seem familiar, even in their oddity This book could also be titled The Accidental Polygamist Golden doesn t have your typical Mormon Fundamentalist background he s originally from the south and has no Mormon pioneer heritage and he just kinds of ends up a polygamist read the book to find out how We ve all heard the sordid stories about polygamous groups for example Warren Jeffs and crew , and even those of us like me with polygamy in our family history can find it all quite disturbing and foreign While Udall s story is full of trauma and tragedy, Golden and his clan don t seem much akin to what we ve seen in the news even though Udall spent time among polygamous families while researching this book I think this makes the story feel much universal One final note, again for sensitive readers There is a fair amount of obscene language throughout, although I personally would call this of a PG 13 than an R rated book. This book s strong points really stellar writing, vividly believable but out there characters, a set of perspectives that pops the story into three dimensions, nuclear blasts, an evil ostrich, a satisfying ending that isn t really a happy ending, great lists, shockingly accurate fundie plyg portraits think bolo ties , character archs for all, a carrot on a stick narrative structure that keeps us drooling along behind, trying to figure out where we ve been and where we re going, some serious goofiness, some weird shiz, romance novels, a cathouse, jolly mexicans, evil pimps, hormonal pre teens, and bits that made me cry.As for the premise take what you think about a plyg family Now invert it Voila Domineering fundie patriarch No He s a bumbling pawn Whimpering naive abused wives looking for escape Nu uh Try worldy women seeking escape from the sour wickedness of gentile life And dead eyed drone children Nope again Willful, lonely, hungry little people, pissed at their 25th hand clothes and lack of attention, trying to be good, sort of, sometimes The characters are pushed to the extreme edge of personality bordering on cartoonish The patriarch Golden is such a dim desperate doofus and the wives are so 1 rigid 2 jolly 3 crazy 4 sad BUT it totally serves the story, serves the setting This family, 28 living kids and four wives, is just any ole family writ large.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 Fantastic Three cheers I can t wait to read his next stuff. As hard as it may be to believe, Golden Richards is lonely Golden has four wives and 28 children, but he s never been lonelier in his life He is mired in a controversial construction job that, if discovered, could bring disgrace to him and his family he knows his wives and children are looking to him and for guidance but he can t avoid them quickly enough he is still mourning the loss of one of his daughters several years ago and he has begun a tantalizing flirtation with Huila, a Guatemalan woman who doesn t know about his real life He is so afraid of letting everyone down but wants nothing than to run away and avoid the crushing responsibilities The Lonely Polygamist is a humorous, heartbreaking, frustrating and beautifully written novel that looks at the realities of polygamy through the eyes of Golden Trish, his fourth wife and Rusty, one of his sons, who doesn t quite fit in and wants to be unique, not just one of 28 children Brady Udall has done a terrific job creating compelling characters and a story that provides deep perspectives into what has brought Golden to this lonely crossroads in his life While sometimes Golden is a little too passive and you want to react to him the way his wives want to, at his core you see that this is a man desperate for love and approval who is fearful of making a wrong turn but unsure what else to do The literary world has billed this book as the next Great American Novel I don t think it s quite at that level, but it is a really well written book with a lot of heart, one that is definitely worth reading. As I sit down to write this review, I find myself thinking there is no way that I can possibly describe this book the banalities I usually employcouldn t put it downfeel so lame because this book was so good, but I ll try.I started out convinced that I would not like any of the characters the polygamist husband in particular, but also, the wives However, the author s painstaking portrayal of the complex emotions that animate each of the spouse s reasons for participating in this lifestyle made it impossible to dismiss any of them, although I ultimately ended up finding the husband Golden somewhat pathetic In fact, I didn t like Golden for most of the book, then the story of his daughter Glory s death and funeral is revealed, and it just broke my heart for him Similarly, the author makes you love Rusty one of the young boys with all your heart, even though he s kind of gross and maddening the way I imagine young boys can be at times Finally, the chaos caused by and interactions among the 28 children yes 28 is hilarious without being ridiculous I would imagine anyone coming from a large family would recognize some of the descriptions as right on the money What I came away with is that this author really cared about these characters which was particularly important I think because the fundamentalist Mormons could easily be reduced to caricatures I read an article that explained how the author made it a point to visit with one of these communities for an extended period, and to me, it shows in the way he humanized his characters.There were also times throughout the book when I would wonder what is the point of including this storyline, and then boom, the author would do something incredible with it One example is a lengthy section describing a night where Golden and two women who will ultimately be his wives live through a night of bomb detonations and radiation fallout then the story of what happens to one of the girls, Nola, that night unfolds, giving a whole new dimension to this loud, wise cracking, seemingly self confident woman in a way that strikes a chord with the vulnerable part of every person.Another thing about this author that simply amazed me was how he artfully manages to make the reader feel profound sadness, and in the next instant, laugh out loud In sum, for me, the range of emotions this book evoked was simply overwhelming The author s observations about how love and loss are always intimately connected rang all too true, and the end of the book contains one of the most moving accounts of death that I have ever read. I picked up this novel because it was on a list of 10 best fiction novels of 2010 I hope that is not the case, here, or fiction is in a sad state The novel is okay its not great Udall works very hard to make Golden, his protagonist, a suffering hero with whom the reader should feel compassion But, the guy is really a wimp Yes, he takes responsiblity for his family of 4 wives and 25 children and, yes, he s grieving the loss of his disabled daughter who died on his watch buta lot of these situations find him he is not really the driver of his life He is a man to whom things happen to, not a person who makes things happen Hence, his house is in disarray his kids are messed up his business is failing With 28 children and 4 women, this novel had a lot of potential Instead, Udall focuses on the one male and one of his emotionally suffering sons The women are flat, which is disappointing And, in a novel where there is very little action plot, you need to have strong chracter characters with whom you want to know about and follow I just don t think that Udall was successful in creating that type of character in his protagonist.

Brady Udall grew up in a large Mormon family in Arizona, where he worked on his grandfather s farm He graduated from Brigham Young University and later attended the Iowa Writers Workshop He was formerly a faculty member of Franklin Marshall College starting in 1998, then Southern Illinois University, and now teaches writing at Boise State University A collection of his short stories titl

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  • Paperback
  • 602 pages
  • The Lonely Polygamist
  • Brady Udall
  • English
  • 19 October 2019
  • 9780393339710

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