Thursday, November 3, 2011

Musings: The Lonely Polygamist

The Lonely Polygamist
Zibilee recommended Brady Udall's The Lonely Polygamist to me a few years ago and I've had the book since then but have never read it.  I finally picked it up at the beginning of October and settled in to read.  I don't read much contemporary fiction, but the title is fantastic, and I always trust Heather's recommendations.

The Lonely Polygamist is about the Richards family, comprised of Golden, the father, his four wives (Beverly, Nola, Rose-of-Sharon and Trish) and their twenty-six children.  They live sprawled over three houses - the Old House, the Big House and the Duplex - in the Southwest in the 1970s and the book recounts just how lonely life in a big, dysfunctional family can be for everyone from the chubby pre-teen boy to the head of the family itself.

I suppose I should start this review by saying that I didn't manage to finish this book.  I am not sure if that is the book's fault or mine.  It's a much longer book than it first appears (I know that sounds silly, but sometimes 600-page books can be quicker reads than 200-page ones).  I started reading it in early October, and three weeks later, I was only about halfway through and not particularly excited about continuing to the end.  I should mention that this inability to finish can be blamed upon Jenny, who instructed me this summer to start watching Dr. Who.  I did start, in October, and was totally obsessed.  The only thing that finally allowed me to tear myself away was the start of the third season, which does not hold my attention nearly as much as the first two seasons did.  Thank goodness, or who knows if I'd get any reading (or work) done!  Any time I had an ickle bit of spare time, I would watch an episode of the show, not pick up the poor extra-Lonely Polygamist.  Poor Golden, losing out to a dashing time lord in a phone box. 

I think the trouble for me with this book, other than Golden comparing unfavorably to an inter-galactic time lord, was the feeling that I kept reading without getting anywhere.  I could not find the plot, and the story read more like a series of short vignettes than one connected novel.  Which would have been fine, except 600 pages is a long vignette collection.  And the characters were so, so lonely.  There is a lot of black humor but no real happiness.  Golden is an awkward, often confused man who has lost control of his life and ended up a pillar of the Mormon polygamist community.  I didn't dislike him, but I also didn't like him much.  I just wanted to shake him and tell him to start taking control of his life.  His son Rusty had a fabulous narrative voice, so endearing and vulnerable, and was my favorite character.  But he is only one of many voices, and I found myself thumbing ahead, scanning for words like "dalek," and hoping that Rusty would turn out to be an alien in disguise.  Alas, he did not.  (Though he did randomly put on an English accent and get a bad case of disco fever.)

What I mean to say is, at a different time and in a different place, I may have fallen in love with Golden Richards and his sad, isolated family, but instead I fell in love with the Doctor and his sweet ride, the TARDIS, and life will likely never be the same again.

So I set the book aside and did the inevitable.  With a sigh of satisfaction, I turned on the TV, and watched another episode of Dr. Who.

PS:  For the record, my enamorment (that's not a word but it should be) with Dr. Who did stall around episode four of season 3, and I haven't watched any episodes of the show for about two weeks now.  Maybe over Thanksgiving break...


  1. I am sorry you didn't like this one, but I can totally understand how it would have suffered in comparison to Dr. Who. My kids are really into that series right now, and I am watching it with them. So compelling, and the Doctor's are so wonderful, though I enjoy the second Doctor the best. I got all confuzzled at the last season because there was a lot of time traveling and alternate versions of history going on, but I am loving the show too. I think Rose is by far the best companion.

    I agree that it takes patience to love this book, and it is very sad at times. The family is lonely, and even though there are so many of them, it's hard not to see that this lifestyle alienates almost everyone.

    Perhaps this one worked so much better for me because I am really interested in polygamy, and love to read about it. I am listening to a nonfiction book right now about a polygamous family, and just raising my eyebrows at the things that they think and believe.

    I am glad that you were honest and candid in your review and that even though the book didn't work for you, that you loved Rusty too!

  2. I have never read Udall's stuff, but the initial blurb about this one is interesting. I'm on something of a polygamist kick. :)

  3. I can fully-undersrtand the Doctor Who obsession, Aarti! Yes, series 3 wasn't my favourite either, though it has the odd good episode (and you can't miss John Simm's manic turn as the Master at the end of the series, it's brilliant!). Series 1 with Christopher Ecclestone had the best/most consistent storylines, generally, IMHO.

    But about this book, sounds a bit sprawling, as you can imagine a family of 26 children would be. Can't say it tempts me, dalek or no dalek.

  4. Zibilee - Oh, it's ok! I'm glad you recommended it to me, anyway, as the premise is very interesting and I do think I learned more about the lifestyle. It does seem very isolating.
    I have only seen two companions at this point, but I like Rose, too. Though I feel sorry for this doctor woman, who is clearly the doctor's rebound girl, and therefore probably doesn't have much of a chance.

    Andi - Haha, then this is for you!

    Tracy - I like season one, too! I really liked Christopher Eccleston, though I know most people prefer David Tenant. I thought he and Billie Piper had better chemistry.

  5. Behold! as I don't comment on the book and instead focus on Doctor Who because I am SO INTO IT RIGHT NOW.

    Here's the deal: my friend is exactly where you are in the series, and ep 4 and 5 of s3 SUCK. I almost never ever say that about DW episodes, but they're terrible and should be ignored. Fricking pigs under Manhattan.

    But you're SO CLOSE to series 4, which has the incomparable Donna. And then River Song! River Sooong!

    Plus there're some very nice eps in s3 coming up, like Human Nature/Family of Blood, and then Blink is *awesome* and stars Carey Mulligan from An Education.


  6. Anonymous11/03/2011

    This one is definitely more of a downer. There were times when I struggled with the length too. It definitely seemed a little longer than some other 600 page books.

  7. Reading Rambo - Ok, you have convinced me to just power through. YES, the New New York episodes just are not my favorite, and I don't get this whole "highway to nowhere" traffic jam thing. I shall give it another go,though, and probably get sucked right back in.

    Lola - Yes, sometimes it can seem so insurmountable, right? But I think the writing style was really nice, it just didn't work for me.

  8. I have heard really good things about this book and was looking forward to your review! But I completely understand not getting into a book that EVERYONE ELSE seems to love. The Lonely Polygamist is to you as Cryptonomicon is to me. GAH. I hope you are able to power through!

    You are also one of the many people that have loved Dr. Who. This is totally going to be next on my must watch list.

  9. Okay, I think I need to start watching Dr Who! I badly need something like that on my life.

  10. I could basically say the same thing that Ana says about, so what she says!

  11. Sudhana - Well, to be fair, I dropped Lonely Polygamist for The Sleeping Partner without a glance backward so who knows when I shall pick it up again? But YES, Dr. Who. And, as promised, ME on Battlestar Galactica.

    Nymeth - Yes. You do. Oh, you do.

    Kailana - Haha, do it!

  12. I hear you, some 600 page books fly by while shorter books sometime takes forever.

    But at least you got the Doctor, awww tennant

  13. It WAS a long book, but I ended up really enjoying it. I loved how Golden really was lonely despite being in such a large family. Though from what I've heard from hardcore fans, Dr. Who can be very very addictive!

  14. Too bad this didn't work for you. I haven't read it but it's on my "maybe I'll get to it one day" list. :-) I hope your next read is much better.

  15. I stopped by for the book review and then got distracted by your talk of Doctor Who. My husband and I discovered the show a couple of years ago and watched it every night on netflix until we caught up. We were totally obsessed (and still are).

    I agree that season three is weak, particularly the point where you stopped. Martha is my least favorite companion, but thankfully she was only there a season. One of my favorite episodes ever is later in that season though - it's called "Blink," and it's fantastically creepy and wonderful (and Martha is only in it for about 30 seconds).

    The seasons after that go back to being spectacular so don't give up!

  16. Blodeuedd - Haha, yes, he's a cutie.

    Jenners - Yes, he had a pretty sad life, I think, starting from his childhood.

    Vasilly - I have had a pretty good run, post-Polygamist, so maybe I'll give it a go again later on.

    Alyce - Ok, you all have convinced me. I will give Dr. Who another go. I thought Martha was so promising in her first episode, but then she just fell flat for me.

  17. Oh dear, showing my age here, the Dr Who of my youth was Tom Baker! My daughters both prefer David Tennant, obviously!

  18. I started this but got annoyed with all the kids running around the house.
    But adding Dr Who to my queue

  19. Fricking pigs under Manhattan
    Or Seks in the City as it ought to be nicknamed - yeah, that one was dalek overkill, though it was interesting about the treatment of the WW1 veterans (though in real life they weren't attacked by daleks, but they were treated appallingly - see The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver)

    Aarti - sounds like most of us would much rather talk about Doctor Who than this book!

  20. Totally commenting because of Doctor Who and not the book! Series 1 with Christopher Eccleston is still my favorite (glad you agree that his chemistry with Rose was better). I've seen up to Season 4. Season 3 does have some rough episodes near the beginning but it also has superb ones. And I like Martha.

    Right now, my roommate and I are almost finished with the incredibly epic Battlestar Galactica and then we'll start catching ourselves up with Doctor Who. There are so many good television series out there and they are the main threat to my reading and blogging time.


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