After reading The 19th Wife this last year, it seems like everywhere I look there are novels that center on the theme of polygamy. To some degree, I think we all wonder how in the world that works, which is also why I'm sure these novels have picked up popularity. I don't really remember how I ran across The Lonely Polygamist, but I'm glad I had a different approach to the topic to try out!
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."
Review: It was an interesting take to tell the story from the perspective of the polygamous husband. Had this ever been done before? If so, I haven't read one like this. There was a humorous bent to the novel that had me really feeling for poor Golden. As a character, he seemed like a giant oaf of a man that was being pushed from house to house, and wife to wife, with not even a "pot to pee" in (both literally and metaphorically). There are some pretty hilarious scenes of his children creating non-stop chaos around the home, bathroom waiting lines because of all the family members, and awkward romantic interludes with wives that just didn't work (to put it mildly). Through it all, Golden seems to go with the flow, trying to meet the needs of everyone and not succeeding. In fact, he then comes last on the list, and he feels disconnected and unhappy most of all.
Golden is just a funny character, and one you just can't help but feel sorry for along the way. It seems as if a million bad things happen to him, which makes him an easy character to like. I know it sounds odd, overall. I have to give Udall credit for writing a novel, with all its humor and quirky mishaps, that he created a character and story that we could embrace. Overall, I did enjoy this novel and liked it a lot more than I did some of the previous stories. I suppose that I don't need to be hit over the head anymore with stories of corruption, so it was nice to have a character-driven plot, where polygamy actually seemed more like a device than a philosophical theme!