The story told in The Lonely Polygamist--that of 45 year-old Golden Richards: husband of 4 and father of 28--wouldn't have nearly the same effect told by a different author. Brady Udall has the peculiar insight and talent for the job: necessary ingredients to turn this book into a wonderful story. I love how the book was captured in this tidbit:
"By turns laugh-out-loud funny and hauntingly sad, this novel is a big, fat, satisfying read that will make you reconsider what it means to be part of a family. Plus, it contains the naughtiest, goofiest 11-year-old boy who will ever break your heart.”
-- Roberta Dyer, Broadway Books, Portland, OR (via IndieBound)
Some of my love for this book was certainly due to the fact that it was amazing on audio. David Aaron Baker? Love him. By the time I was halfway through the book, I had to pause and search Audible for what other books he's narrated (plenty of options). He had a distinct voice for each character, which really brought them to life.
Now, I am not a fan of polygamy as a subject. It's a topic that instantly puts a pit of SAD at the bottom of my stomach. In my mind, it negates the individuality and specialness, to some degree, of each person involved. I suppose I don't understand The Principle; the ascetic ideal is one I have a hard time accepting. However. (You knew there was going to be a BUT, didn't you?) For the first time, there was a seed of sympathy, of understanding, accompanying that sadness. Udall understands the nuances, and by showing his characters in a somewhat extreme (and occasionally ludicrous) light he allows the reader to see how simply human they are.
I loved how the characters were introduced...even the houses and the dog, and eventually Roy: the atomic test weapon...each with their own little history, their own narrative flavor. I loved Rusty (poor crazy kid) and wish I'd known Glory. The references to Reno were additionally funny to me, having lived relatively near it for much of my life. I do wish the story hadn't been wrapped up quite so tidily, but since it all seemed pretty plausible (and since I'd enjoyed myself so much along the way) I can't really complain. The book was over before I was ready, leaving me with a smile still on my face and an ache in my heart.
(A warning: be prepared for some bodily functions. Many of the plights that Golden and his 11 year-old son Rusty find themselves in are a bit awkward and there is a smattering of strong language, including many mild but stereotypical 'gay' references. I found it to fit the characters he had created, but if you're sensitive to these things it could possibly affect your opinion of the book.)