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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
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...
Published on April 21, 2010 by Michael A. Duvernois

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71 of 78 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A tale of the toxic desert
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...
Published on May 29, 2010 by EJ


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71 of 78 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A tale of the toxic desert, May 29, 2010
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This review is from: The Lonely Polygamist: A Novel (Hardcover)
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
This review is from: The Lonely Polygamist: A Novel (Hardcover)
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
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This review is from: The Lonely Polygamist: A Novel (Hardcover)
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. Udall unobtrusively slips in a broad spectrum of the landscape, from Hispanic tenants with their drugs and mescal, to Nevada brothels, survivalist bomb shelters, and nuclear tests.

There are astounding plot turns, but not like those of a thriller that smack hard yet feel weightless; these surprises settle in and make you say, "but of course!" Udall truly does make this unusual situation feel quite normal. He makes you identify with everyone, and much to your surprise, sympathize with and even root for his protagonist.

"[T]his ... was the basic truth they all chose to live by: that love was no finite commodity. That it was not subject to the cruel reckoning of addition and subtraction, that to give to one did not necessarily mean to take from another; that the heart, in its infinite capacity--even the confused and cheating heart of the man in front of her, even the paltry thing now clenched and faltering inside her own chest--could open itself to all who would enter, like a house with windows and doors thrown wide, like the heart of God itself, vast and accommodating and holy, a mansion of rooms without number, full of multitudes without end."

I don't know how true-to-life this story may be. But it feels right, it reads beautifully and often hilariously, and I liked it an awful lot.
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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
By 
J. L. Rubenking (Cleveland, OH USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Lonely Polygamist: A Novel (Hardcover)
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. But Trish also lives independently, in an apartment in town. It's there that she develops a friendship with the always 'escaping' Rusty and Rusty's friend, the fireworks-loving handyman, June. The relationship between Trish and June is a lovely one, a what-if sort of relationship that gently grows out of commonalities - these two people just might make it if they left everything else behind.

With Rusty, Udall gives us the best character in the book. Outrageous, funny, sad, bitter, hateful, wonderful Rusty. When he goes off on his tirades against his 'evil aunt' or the sad fact that his clothes are in tatters and he doesn't have any friends at school, we are right there with him, rooting for him. He calls his dad "Sasquatch" and fantasizes about his future with Trish, while worrying about his own fragile mother and fighting with his many brothers and sisters.

My other bones of contention are the pat, tidy, wrapped and tacked ending, and the horrible fate that befalls a much loved member of the family. Having put up with some pretty bizarre goings-on for 500 pages, does the reader deserve the cheap hat trick of an ending to this novel? We want better for the characters (yes, even Golden), and Udall fails to deliver.
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53 of 68 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars the best read of the year, April 16, 2010
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This review is from: The Lonely Polygamist: A Novel (Hardcover)
This is the best book I have read in this (relatively) new year. By turns laugh out loud funny and hearbreakingly sad- its also endlessly creative. Its everything you would want in a piece of fiction- pick it up, read the 1st page, turn the page , read on- before you know it you are completely caught up in the world of Golden, his 4 wives and 28 children. This is a book to read once, tell all your friends about it, read it again. These characters and their story will stay with you for a long long time. The feeling I had while reading it was the feeling I remember having when I read Lonesome Dove for that 1st time. If you are a lover of good fiction- then you are in luck because this is fiction at its finest.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars This book kept my interest enough to finish it but that's about all, August 5, 2010
This book is all about being lonely in a crowd. Just because you're surrounded by people, surrounded by family doesn't mean that anyone really sees you or understands you. This book has alternating chapters told from four perspectives- Golden, a man with four wives and twenty -some odd children who has gotten to where he is in life by always doing what he's told and never questioning. Trish- Golden's fourth and youngest wife who re-connected with her faith and became a plural wife (having been raised in a "ply" family, as they are referred to in the book) after taking her daughter and leaving her failed marriage. Having suffered the loss of three children miscarried and stillborn, she thought that joining a large family would fill the hole those deaths left in her but it only seems to make her feel those losses more deeply. Rusty- one of the younger children of Golden's third sister-wife, is a stereotypical child longing for attention in a family where there isn't enough to go around, so he acts out in search of negative attention. His goal is to find a way to get his mother to take him and leave the polygamist family, longing for a more normal existence without fully understanding what that is. The fourth point of view is that of the houses this family lives in, an outsider's perspective on the lives of the people in this family.

Although not without its laugh-out-loud parts, this was a very morose book, filled with characters that couldn't seem to understand themselves. These characters were so constantly out of touch with themselves it was painful to read at parts. Obviously if the characters have it all together, the book would be fairly boring to read, but there IS some middle ground. These ones I found it hard to relate to on any level. It got to the point where I was actually hoping that there wouldn't be a happy ending as I didn't feel these characters deserved one. I'll leave you to read to book to find out if I got my wish. This book kept my interest enough to finish it but that's about all. If it had been free, I probably wouldn't have finished it.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rusty will crack you up, and make you cry, June 4, 2010
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This review is from: The Lonely Polygamist: A Novel (Hardcover)
Brady Udall has eight brothers and sisters, one of them named Brigham, but it doesn't look like he was a member of a polygamist family. In a brief acknowledgment he admits that he did visit with "families" in Utah and Arizona. Whatever the case, Udall takes us inside one such polygamist family and convinces us they're real.

Golden Richards, the protagonist of the novel, has four wives and twenty-six kids who live in three houses, but he is not the product of a polygamist family himself. He was the only child of a chronically depressed mother and a father who spent most of his time on the road chasing get-rich-quick schemes. Golden inherits the polygamist connection when his father dies.

Despite the twenty-six kids, this story is more about the adults and one of the children. Beverly, Golden's first wife, is the alpha female of the family. She runs Old House and tells everybody what to do, including Golden. Nola and Rose-of-Sharon are sisters who run a beauty shop. Nola is the only one who seems to have a sense of humor; her sister is just the opposite, also chronically depressed. Trish is the newest of the wives, enlisted by Beverly who is constantly at war with Nola. Trish lives alone in small duplex with her daughter Faye. She gets the short end of the stick in respect to access to Golden.

Golden has a couple of secrets. His construction company is building an addition onto a whore house and he's having an affair with a woman he thinks is one of the prostitutes.

The only one of the kids Udall spends any length of time with is the great Rusty Richards. He's Rose-of-Sharon's eleven year old son and he's the funniest little kid since Kevin in "Home Alone." Rusty wants to spend his twelfth birthday, a very important milestones in his church, at a local skating rink, where he will pull off a stunt called the Honk Job, involving "two leg kicks, a bunch of crazy finger-snapping, a knee bend, and then several quick spins that brought you right up next to your dance partner so you could reach out at the last second and squeeze her boobs with both hands." Rusty also loves explosives and he meets his soul mate, June Haymaker, when he runs away from home and meets this guy who's building a fallout shelter and just happens to have lots of black powder lying around.

There are lots of other great characters: Royal, Golden's father; Ted Leo, the owner of the whore house; Huila, Golden's illicit girlfriend; Cooter, the dog; and an indestructible Ostrich. Udall brings everything together about three-quarters of the way through with a twist I must confess I did not see coming, and like most catastrophes there's some good involved as it makes a man out of Golden. The LONELY POLYGAMIST is a definite five-star, and those are as rare as hen's teeth around here.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Recommended to everyone!, July 7, 2011
By 
David Jay (Brooklyn, New York) - See all my reviews
I bought this book because I read a number of rave reviews and it took me a few months to actual pick it up (kind of heavy, you know...) and I just loved every word of it, from cover to cover. Somehow, in spite of the fact that the characters were so different from me, and probably so different from you, unless you happen to be in a plural marriage with 4 wives, or an 11 yr old with 27 siblings, or the fourth and youngest wife who appears unable to have a baby, I felt I was relating to my next door neighbors. The writing is beautiful, the characters are real and heartbreakingly so. I could not have enjoyed this book more.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Funny and Endearing Tale of a Lonely Polygamist, January 30, 2011
By 
Richard Guion (San Ramon, CA USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Lonely Polygamist: A Novel (Hardcover)
The Lonely Polygamist, at first glance, seems a lot like the HBO show Big Love, but it's vastly more endearing and entertaining. I was intrigued by the general setup: how can Golden Richards, a man with 4 wives and 30 children ever feel lonely? The answer is, because when you family is that large and dysfunctional, with a house too small to accommodate an army, not enough bathrooms, financial pressure, demands from all his wives, Golden feels there is not enough space for himself. Brady Udall's book is a slow burn. It takes a while for us to learn about Golden's extended family, his father, and his origins in Tennessee. But once you see the predicament that Golden is in, with his construction crew building a Nevada whorehouse (Pussycat Manor 2) for a dirty businessman named Ted Leo, and falling in love with a woman from Guatemala, you'll be hooked on these zany characters.

Udall shifts character point of view from chapter to chapter. The other main characters are Trish, Golden's fourth wife, who lives in her own condo with her daughter. Trish is lonely, isolated, never spending enough time with Golden due to his trips to Nevada and sharing with the other three wives. She is also horny and desperate to conceive another kid. The other three wives: Beverly, Nola, and Rose, appear to be more stereotypical Mormon ladies. As time goes on, Udall peels back more layers on all of them to reveal more surprises.

If all this weren't good enough, one of Golden's sons is named Rusty, who is in the throes of puberty and also suffering from not enough love or attention. Rusty is a chubby, goofy, fearless kid who rebels against the stern Mormon authority of Mom #1, Beverly. It wasn't until I read Rusty's chapter that I realized this book was set in the mid 1970s, as Rusty fantasizes about his perfect 12th birthday party at a roller disco. Rusty gets into hordes of trouble after he meets June Haymaker, a handyman with a hobby in making explosives.

There is a lot of humor in this novel, but you will also feel empathy for these deprived wives and kids. There are also moments of great sadness. All in all it is a beautiful and memorable novel.
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13 of 17 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Too Much; Not Enough, September 16, 2010
By 
Jeff Talbott (Sunnyside, NY USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Lonely Polygamist: A Novel (Hardcover)
There's nothing better than a big book to fall into. And there's nothing worse than a big book that saps your spirit as you turn every page. Sadly, THE LONELY POLYGAMIST is very much the latter. Is it a satire? Is it a family drama? Yes. And no. Too dramatic to be true satire, too ricidulous to take seriously, the book falls apart in front of your eyes. The back half of the novel becomes tedious and trying, and there's an awful surprise coming in the third act that, in other novels, might have lifted the whole thing to a sublime height. Here, it just made me angry. The author's contempt for his characters is not tempered with enough compassion and the whole thing is just a big, big mess. And at 600 pages, it costs too much time and effort to get through.
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The Lonely Polygamist: A Novel
The Lonely Polygamist: A Novel by Brady Udall (Hardcover - May 3, 2010)
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