Golden Richards is a normal dad. But with four wives and twenty eight children there just isn't enough of him to go around.
Unbeknownst to his wives, Golden has taken a construction job on a Nevada brothel.
Lying to cover his tracks, beset by familial rivalry on all sides, he seeks relief in the arms of his boss' wife.
To put it simply, this is the story of a polygamist who has an affair.
But there is much more to it than that. Generous, wise and moving "The Lonely Polygamist" is a bittersweet tale of family, love and belonging.
- Format: Paperback
- Pages: 608 pages
- Publisher: Vintage Publishing
- Publication Date: 12/05/2011
- Category: Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)
- ISBN: 9780099498032
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Review by jayne_charles
There was tremendous warmth radiating from this big, generous, densely-populated book. It’s about a polygamist who has an affair, but there is much more to it than that, we are told in the opening paragraph. How true that is. Here is a man with 28 children – so many that we have to have a diagram at the beginning to keep track of how old they are and which of the four wives is their mother. How will the author herd this unruly brood into a coherent storyline I wondered? The answer is by telling the story from the point of view of just three of the characters: Golden, the eponymous polygamist, his youngest wife Trish whose only child with him to date died at birth, and 12 year old Rusty, one of the other wives’ children, known as the Family Terrorist. The other children feature, often known by a number (daughter #3 etc), though we don’t get to know many of them in too much depth.My knowledge of Mormons and the whole business of polygamy on a practical level was superficial, and this novel has filled in the gaps. It isn’t the story of some overbearing controlling patriarch – Golden cuts a likeable figure and he loves all his children. The wives haven’t been coerced into anything. On the other hand the difficulties of such a lifestyle are clear: the children encounter prejudice at school and are known as ‘plygs’. I felt Rusty’s pain when he had to share his one special birthday with his father and felt overlooked. His desperate attempts to be an individual within the constraints of the family’s lifestyle are clear and understandable. And against all expectation, the author demonstrates how a polygamist can be lonely and why he might embark on an affair which endangers his life.There is tremendous humour – the bit where Golden was unable to sit down in the brothel due to a pile of penises on the chair was a particular highlight. But at the same time the book is capable of pulling very hard on the heartstrings. Thinking particularly of the sheriff at the cemetery, and later the “Boy at the window” chapter. It was such skilful writing.Whatever you think about polygamy – and I still wouldn’t fancy it myself – there was a paragraph that came closest to making the case for it as far as I was concerned: “...This, after all, was the basic truth they all chose to live by: that love was no finite commodity. That it was not subject to the cruel reckoning of addition and subtraction, that to give to one did not necessarily mean to take from another, that the heart, in its infinite capacity.....could open itself to all who would enter, like a house with windows and doors thrown wide, like the heart of God itself, vast and accommodating and holy, a mansion of rooms without number, full of multitudes without end.”