The Lonely Polygamist
May 2010 Indie Next List
— Roberta Dyer, Broadway Books, Portland, OR
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A New York Times bestseller: "Udall masterfully portrays the hapless foibles and tragic yearnings of our fellow humans." —San Francisco Chronicle
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.
Beautifully written, keenly observed, and ultimately redemptive, The Lonely Polygamist is an unforgettable story of an American family—with its inevitable dysfunctionality, heartbreak, and comedy—pushed to its outer limits.
Praise For The Lonely Polygamist: A Novel…
— Eric Weinberger - The New York Times Book Review
A riveting emotional tornado of a novel.
— Entertainment Weekly
The novelist’s affection for his protagonist and sensitivity to his domestic despair yields characters and scenes that are precise and unfailingly rewarding. [Udall] has that gift for writing sinuous and convincing sentences that convey his affection without compromising clarity or truth.
— Alan Cheuse - All Things Considered, NPR
A wry, sympathetic portrait of a spectacularly dysfunctional family.
— The New Yorker
There's something cinematic about the way Udall presents this tale, with at least a handful of dramatic scenes that seem to beg for a big-screen treatment. Furthermore, Udall's poetic rendering of the Southwestern landscape brings to mind the lingering, panoramic shots of films like Brokeback Mountain and A River Runs Through It. But most of all it's Golden, Rusty and the novel's other complex characters that make The Lonely Polygamist a potential classic. They remain with the reader after the last page is turned.
— San Francisco Chronicle
An audacious and frequently funny new novel.
— Wendy Smith - Washington Post
A profoundly satisfying read, written with a ferocious verve and authenticity.
— Cleveland Plain Dealer
An absorbing, moving entertaining novel that will transport the reader into Golden’s chaotic world.
— Dallas Morning News
[A] compelling, rollicking story.
— Salt Lake Tribune
What is so great about this unflinching, superbly crafted, big hearted novel is the way it makes us recognize the polygamist(and sister wife) in all of us. Golden Richards' struggles and desires are no different from ours, he just has them in multiples of four. His story not only demystifies and humanizes polygamist culture, it takes a dramatic stand on behalf of families everywhere—from the most conservative to the most alternative—and suggests a way to foreground, amidst all our failings, the rare moment of success.
— Pam Houston, author of Cowboys Are My Weakness
The Lonely Polygamist cracks open the door to plural marriage and lets in the light. Brady Udall explores the Richards family with the greatest care and humor, building memorable characters that readers will immediately love. Funny and wise, The Lonely Polygamist stands with other great family novels such as The Corrections and Middlesex, and sets Udall on the top shelf of America’s writers.
— Hannah Tinti, author of The Good Thief and Animal Crackers
This is big-hearted American storytelling, the best new book I’ve read in years.
— Bonnie Jo Campbell, author of American Salvage
W. W. Norton & Company, 9780393339710, 624pp.
Publication Date: May 9, 2011
About the Author
Conversation Starters from ReadingGroupChoices.com
What were your views on polygamy before reading the book? Did they change after you finished reading?
Discuss Golden’s progression from lonely polygamist to social polygamist. How does a renewal of faith assist this transformation?
Compare and contrast Golden’s behavior at the two funerals. How are they similar? In what ways are they different?
How does Glory affect the other family members and Golden in particular?
Discuss the motifs of creation and destruction that appear throughout the novel.
Do you think Rusty is a representative figure for all of the Richards children in the novel, or is he in some ways unique?
Trish is one of the most conflicted mothers in the novel. What do you think of her decision at the end? Was it the right thing to do?
How has the family changed at the conclusion of the novel? Do you think they are happy with their decisions?
Discuss Rose-of-Sharon’s reaction to Rusty’s accident. Do you think you would have reacted the same way if you were in her place?
Why do you think Golden isn’t able to consummate his affair with Huila?
Physical appearance is described with exacting clarity throughout the novel. Golden is described as bucktoothed and “Sasquatch,” and Glory as “lopsided” and “overstuffed.” Why do you think there is such a heightened awareness of the body?
What is the effect of polygamy on the women in the novel? How do you think their lives and personalities would be different if they weren’t in a polygamous relationship?