Alone in a Crowd – The Lonely Polygamist by Brady Udall

The Lonely Polygamist is a strange sort of book. And I mean that in a good way. A man with four wives, part of a Mormon-offshoot sect, who is ineffectual and bumbling. And falling in love with a woman who is not (one of) his wives. Oh yeah, and lonely. Udall treats this “alternative lifestyle” with delicacy and respect (ha! am loving the opportunity to lump this old-style Mormon cult in w/the LGBT community!).  In the end, we are all just humans, shaped and damaged by our upbringing and trying to find peace and happiness in our lives.

I liked a lot of things about this book, and I really liked the way it ended. I did think it went on a bit longer than necessary in some sections.  I loved that we got to know the title character, Golden, as well as one wife, and one child (not of that wife) closely, to give a well-rounded picture of the family dynamics, and some of the many ways you can be lonely in a family w/more than 30 people in it. Because, as we’ve all heard before, it is sometimes lonelier to be with people than it is to be alone.

The Lonely Polygamist also has something to say about the rewards (and possible risks) of taking initiative, owning your responsibilities and pursuing your dreams (not your impulses). The picture of a chaotic family home (whether you have one mom or four) rings true and brings humor to the sometimes-depressing narrative of a man who (of course) must hit bottom before he can see his way clear to make a better choice.

The book made me bawl like a baby at one point (near the end, I won’t spoil it for ya) though in my defense, it was 2 am. If it had been earlier, I may have just bawled like a woman in her 40s.

This book includes a lot of info about nuclear bomb testing in the Utah/New Mexico area for a decade in the 50s/early 60s.  I admit I’d heard of these tests but knew very little about the details. This book shocked me with some of the (google-search verified) historically accurate details regarding the fall-out of above-ground nuclear (!) testing near populated areas. (I was going to say ‘on U.S. soil’, but exactly who’s soil would it be ‘ok’ to test this stuff on?!). Golden’s father made it big by finding uranium in Utah, and several of the main characters were injured in one big test gone bad.

I should probably add – I was thrilled to finish the book, because I’d picked up Absolute Sandman #1 by Neil Gaiman at the library and COULD NOT WAIT to read it.  And it was awesome, and too short (only 20 issues? 9 of which I’d read before? Where is Absolute Sandman #2 already!?).

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