Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Lonely Polygamist, by Brady Udall

The Lonely Polygamist, by Brady Udall, is a sensitive, as well as irreverent, look at one Mormon family in 1960s Utah. The exact year of the story is not clear. Udall indicates, in his author's note, that geography and history were ignored "when they didn't serve the story." We do, however, get a clear picture of cold war America, a time when atomic bomb testing was taking place in uranium-rich Utah.

Golden Richards is the main protagonist in this 600-page tale. He has four wives and twenty-eight children. Once able to support them with an inheritance and a growing construction business, he now has fallen victim to the economic slump. He has gradually been selling off his properties for available cash. Desperate, he accepts a project to build an upscale brothel in Nevada, pretending that he is building a home for the elderly.

It is in Nevada that the reader is introduced to an array of colorful characters, including the woman with whom Golden has an affair. Udall cleverly explores issues of grief, sexuality, loneliness, and inclusion. At times overly descriptive, the author's depiction of the characters is both tragic and uproariously funny.

The Lonely Polygamist is an absorbing read, made all the more so by characters who are very flawed and utterly human.

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