The Lonely Polygamist by Brady Udall

There is no doubt that, to most, the idea of the polygamous lifestyle is one that is unusual at best, warped at worst. However, what Brady Udall does in his novel is present a very human depiction of a life less ordinary, which, in many ways, is littered with the same issues and troubles as any other person’s existence.

Golden is the patriarch of the novel and it is clear that he is struggling with the demands that his existence makes on him. He has four wives, an abundance of children to keep and houses to run and maintain, as well as having to manage a construction project which takes him hours from home. He is tired physically and stretched emotionally, and is desperately trying to keep his head above water and is conscious of how he is failing.

Trish is his fourth wife and is trying to figure out where her place is in this enormous family of which she is the newcomer. She has her own troubles to contend with as well as vying for the attention of the man to whom she is married when he is already over-extended.

And then there is Rusty, an eleven year old boy, part of a family of dozens whose behaviour singles him out as odd, which considering his circumstances, takes some doing. Udall creates a picture of a boy who just wants to be noticed and loved in a clamouring crowd of needy children.

This book was lots of things: it was interesting in terms of where the story is set and the depiction of a chaotic, unusual life and provided an insight into a way of living that I will never experience; it was very human and showed the wants and needs of individuals and how they try and obtain these through the circumstances they find themselves, not always successfully or without hurting others; it was funny, comically so at points and this just added to its authenticity as a portrayal of human lives; it was filled with grief and how individuals deal with it, in different ways, and was moving and heartfelt without being sentimental.

I am keen to read more of Udall’s work as I felt like he was an astute observer of people, their emotions and the demands made on them, that they can not always fulfil.

A good book; long but good.

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