The Lonely Polygamist
by Brady Udall
Reviewed by Mark Bailey
When I first met Brady Udall at an Entrada Institute writing workshop in Torrey a few years ago we figured that we were related. There’s a bit of polygamy where we came from. It’s in my family line and, I’m pretty sure, in his. LDS Church founder Joseph Smith took on a good number of young wives and claimed through prophecy that church Elders should do the same. It was one of the things that didn’t make Brother Smith very popular with his Gentile neighbors in Illinois where he was murdered by a mob. Brigham Young took over for Smith and had 30 some odd wives of his own. At the turn of the 20th century, the Mormon church gave up on polygamy in order for Utah to be adopted into the Union. But the practice was considered sacred and it lingers today scattered throughout the Intermountain West. I haven’t seen Brady in a while to ask him, but I wonder which came first; the title of his book or the novel itself.
The story is set in mid-twentieth century southern Utah, long after the LDS Church officially disavowed the Principal, as polygamy was known. Golden Richards, the tragicomic, hapless, patriarch protagonist veers through his zany life trying to keep track of his four or five wives (one loses track) and his 28 children, all living in three separate households. What’s it like to live like that? How is it justified? The story and characters are surprisingly big-hearted and becoming. At one point Golden innocently assures wife number four that just because he may add wife number five, “it doesn’t mean I love you any less.” Is love finite? The title may suggest an answer. Grab a book and decide for yourself! Click the Amazon box, or better yet see your favorite, local, independent bookseller–or one of ours: The King’s English Bookshop.