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The Lonely Polygamist: A Novel [Kindle Edition]

Brady Udall
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (198 customer reviews)

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Book Description

A New York Times bestseller: from a luminous storyteller, a highly anticipated new novel about the American family writ large. “Udall masterfully portrays the hapless foibles and tragic yearnings of our fellow humans.”—San Francisco Chronicle

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.

Editorial Reviews Review

Amazon Best Books of the Month, May 2010: EmNephiHelamanNaomiJosephinePaulineNovellaParleyGale... When times get tense--and they often do--for Golden Richards, the title patriarch of Brady Udall's The Lonely Polygamist, he turns to a soothing chant of the names, in order, of his 28 children. (It's also practical, when he needs to sort out just which toddler is showing him a scab, and which teen is asking if he can come to her 4-H demo.) While Big Love seeks the inherent soap opera in a man with many wives, Udall finds the slapstick: Golden's houses are the sort of places where the dog is often wearing underwear and a child or two likely isn't. But Udall doesn't settle just for jokes (though the jokes are excellent). Golden may be hapless, distracted, and deceitful, but he is large-hearted and so is his story. There's menace and more than a full share of tragedy there, as well as unabashed redemption and a particular sympathy for the loneliest members of this crowded family. With a fresh and faultless ear for American vernacular, Udall's big tale of beset manhood effortlessly earns its comparisons to tragicomic family classics from The Corrections to John Irving. --Tom Nissley

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. A family drama with stinging turns of dark comedy, the latest from Udall (The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint) is a superb performance and as comic as it is sublimely catastrophic. Golden Richards is a polygamist Mormon with four wives, 28 children, a struggling construction business, and a few secrets. He tells his wives that the brothel he's building in Nevada is actually a senior center, and, more importantly, keeps hidden his burning infatuation with a woman he sees near the job site. Golden, perpetually on edge, has become increasingly isolated from his massive family—given the size of his brood, his solitude is heartbreaking—since the death of one of his children. Meanwhile, his newest and youngest wife, Trish, is wondering if there is more to life than the polygamist lifestyle, and one of his sons, Rusty, after getting the shaft on his birthday, hatches a revenge plot that will have dire consequences. With their world falling apart, will the family find a way to stay together? Udall's polished storytelling and sterling cast of perfectly realized and flawed characters make this a serious contender for Great American Novel status. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Product Details

  • File Size: 1099 KB
  • Print Length: 603 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0393062627
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; Reprint edition (May 3, 2010)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
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  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #119,091 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
70 of 77 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A tale of the toxic desert May 29, 2010
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I am of two minds about this book. I really enjoyed the premise, and the writing. And the story really brought home a major theme: that whatever you are exposed to in your youth sticks with you forever, for better or for worse.

The story is primarily about Golden Richards, a polygamist with four wives and approximately 28 kids. The logistical difficulties inherent in this lifestyle are made very clear early on. You get a real sense that Golden will be facing some problems, and indeed he does. The second major focus of the book is one of his sons, Rusty, who is also coping with being a "plyg" kid in the best way he knows how. The beginning of the book was sharp and focused and nicely paced. But the middle seemed to just be a series of roadblocks with no resolution or gratification for the reader. It was almost as if the author was saying to himself, "what can I do next to torture this guy some more?". The plot seemed to be just stuck in a rut at that point.

I'm kind of ambivalent about the book. It had some wonderful reviews and there were certainly parts of the book that got me thinking that this was some really fine writing. But after thinking about the book for a few days, I'm not feeling like it's one to strongly recommend, unless for those with a strong interest in the subject matter.
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98 of 112 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Comic, bittersweet novel of family, lots of family April 21, 2010
I think the initial draw to the book is the portrayal of a polygamist family (man, four wives, and twenty eight children), but ultimately to book succeeds in making the connections from comical extremes back to everyone's daily situation. The typical reader is likely to have one or zero spouses, but there's a humanity and fundamental commonality of experience in the drawing of the book's characters that allows us to enjoy the ride. This is a novel of the family and a novel of modern America with a protagonist trying to balance home life, work, the demands of society, and the wayward tugs of the heart. While juggling four sister-wives and a struggling construction business.

I'm not fully willing to go with that "Great American Novel" review quoted above in the amazon description. Udall certainly is willing to tackle big issues and write a broad tale, and it is a good read. There's maybe just a little edge that is missing. As if things are a touch too neat and tidy, and maybe there's been a little extra sugar on the bitter pills. It's a minor quibble, and you should definitely read the book!
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75 of 86 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Just delightful April 27, 2010
You figure a title like this has to be ironic, even sarcastic. For most of us the notion of a polygamist Mormon patriarch -- one possessed of four wives and 28 children -- probably conjures a despotic control freak. But this book is simply and sincerely titled. The protagonist Golden Richards is a sweet, bewildered, and thoroughly overwhelmed man.

Constantly fleeing and hiding from the demands and power plays of his wives and a melee of kids in three different houses, fighting to revive his failing construction business, deeply wounded by grief and guilt over the accidental death of a daughter and the still-birth of a son, he finds himself attracted to another woman who clearly needs help and attention but is precisely the wrong person for him to be seeing.

Apart from Golden, the narrative most often inhabits the minds of Rusty, a troubled 11-year-old lost in the pack, and Trish, the fourth and youngest wife. We get plenty of back stories along the way: the origins of Golden's father Royal, the courtship of his first wife Beverly, critical past moments in the history of this odd, sprawling family.

There are also wonderful miniature portraits -- of the true power brokers and go-getters in the local Mormon community, other polygamists like Ervil LeBaron who give the church a bad name, unattached mothers hoping to become Golden's fifth spouse, the odd books that characters read in hiding (from the romance novel, To Love a Scoundrel, to How to Derail a Train With Common Household Items), and the sweetest and wisest sheriff you could imagine.

The book reads easily, with much humor and occasional stabbing sorrow.
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30 of 35 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Distasteful (but not because of the subject matter!) August 15, 2010
This book has gotten great reviews this year, and I was rather eager to read it. But while it has many moments of hilarity, as well as genuine, relatable tragedy, I was left ultimately with a feeling of distaste for the book. Not because of the polygamist subject matter; on the contrary, I don't care what anyone's beliefs or living situations may be. Golden Richards (the protagonist) can have his four wives and 28 kids and I have no quarrel with it. There are other, more glaring faults with the book that prevent me from liking it.

My first bone of contention is with Golden Richards, who, as a character, is so ignorant as to be almost mentally challenged. He's a hulking brute with no education who just stumbles through the mess of disgruntled wives and rampantly rambunctious children he's tied to. This is a man who spends weeks with gum in his pubic hair, seemingly unable to figure out a way to remove it. While this episode is initially funny, it just becomes pathetic. When Golden is tempted to begin an affair that would destroy his family forever, he stumbles toward it just as he hulks into every other decision, fumbling and unthinking.

There are some good things to consider here as well, though. Udall gives us three narrators in this tale, and I enjoyed having other viewpoints from Golden's. We also hear from the fourth and youngest wife, Trish, and one of Golden's kids, 11-year-old Rusty, "the family terrorist." Trish's backstory and present view of her situation and the whole Richards' family situation are evidence that at least the women in this book know what's what. Trish isn't one to let the other wives run roughshod over her, but she also depends on them for many things, especially incorporating her introverted daughter from a previous marriage into the household.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Good read
Sections of this book held my attention while other parts seemed to lag. The ending was unexpected.
Published 2 days ago by Anita D. Hoag
3.0 out of 5 stars Well written and pathetic.
Poor Golden. He was given no education, no life skills, no normal role models, and apparently very little brain. Read more
Published 12 days ago by Meredith
3.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyed it in the end but was slow getting into ...
Enjoyed it in the end but was slow getting into it. Could have been because I really didn't have much sympathy for the guy!
Published 1 month ago by Horst Hart
5.0 out of 5 stars Laugh, cry, and enjoy!
I laughed. I cried. I loved this book! It is an unexpected joy to find such an enjoyable book. Anyone with a family will relate to the constant negotiations required. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Carrie Catanzaro
5.0 out of 5 stars A real page turner!
This was the most entertaining book I have read in a long time. I finished it very quickly because I simply could not put it down.
Published 6 months ago by lisa
4.0 out of 5 stars A colorful read
It took me awhile to get into it, but I enjoyed it once I did. The author is an excellent writer with vivid, lifelike descriptions and care. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Kristin Brothers

How could anyone be lonely while having twenty eight children, four wives, running their own construction business, and being super involved in... Read more
Published 7 months ago by Pamela A. Poddany
4.0 out of 5 stars good book
Easy to download - different type of book! I am about half way through it. Reading it for my book club.
Published 8 months ago by Gordon Pirrong
5.0 out of 5 stars Tart then Sweet, a Wonderful Read
Complete review: [...]

The experience of reading this book was very much like eating a giant, heavy, extremely tart and juicy, crisp green apple. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Marie Wreath
5.0 out of 5 stars Yes, the polygamist in this book is lonely!
Is this book for real? Does it really portray what it's like to be a man with many wives and oodles of children? I don't really know, but the story is a good one. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Alice M. Gardner
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More About the Author

Brady Udall is the author of "The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint," "Letting Loose the Hounds," and "The Lonely Polygamist." His work has appeared in The Paris Review, Esquire, Playboy, and elsewhere. He lives in Boise, Idaho.

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Topic From this Discussion
Poor editing?
I didn't notice those mistakes -- an editor/proofreader should have caught them, especially the discrepancies with the dates. I hope they don't keep you from finishing the book. I'm not familiar with Las Vegas history and I didn't study the family tree, so the screw-ups didn't bother me.
May 30, 2010 by Pam Gearhart |  See all 5 posts
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