I’m not much of a reality TV watcher, but I admittedly have seen an episode or two of Sister Wives on TLC. Having a background in sociology and women’s studies, I couldn’t help but be fascinated with watching how this family (consisting of 4 wives, 1 husband and 17 children) navigates the world together within the confines of plural marriage. So when I was browsing the audiobook shelves for a light read over my holiday travelling, I was immediately interested in the plot of The Lonely Polygamist by Brady Udall.
Without giving too much away, the story goes like this: Golden Richards, devote Mormon living in Utah, has 4 wives, 28 children and is having a midlife crisis as his life slowly crumbles around him. There is turmoil between the wives, financial troubles as a result of a failing construction business, and the pressure from the elders in his church to acquire another wife. He is a withdrawn and indecisive man, letting his wives run their own households, views his children as one large indiscernible group and is simply floating through the motions of life. So when Golden meets the exotic Ouilla, he is faced with temptation beyond his control.
As the Richards clan grapple with their various crises, we are given insight into the perspectives of three central characters: Golden himself, one of his children named Rusty and wife #4, Trish. Rusty, an odd 12-year-old boy yet likeable personality is misunderstood by his entire family and is looking for attention in a world where it’s every child for themself. Trish, a heartbroken soul after several miscarrages as well as a still born son and somewhat of an outsider in the family herself, forms an unlikely bond with Rusty.
Udall writes with great insight into his characters creating a novel which is both funny (there are some great one-liners from Rusty that had me in stitches) and poignant. His crafted story is well told and is not so much about the polygamist lifestyle itself, rather the struggle of one rather large and non-traditional family to connect and evolve. It’s well worth the 20-discs of listening!