Sunday, December 15, 2013

Is the Man That Hath His Quiver Full of Them Happy?

The snow just keeps falling around here.  The wind blows down our necks.  In the hours before the storms hit, the stores empty of bread and milk.

That's OK.  Why go anywhere?  Why not just stay home, buried in Brady Udall's The Lonely Polygamist? 

Despite an improbably slapstick opening chapter, I lived in reading heaven for a week.  Golden Richards has four wives and twenty-eight children, and this massive household (three houses, actually) is out of control.  Golden leaves Utah's Virgin Valley every week for his big construction job over in Nevada.  He's building a nursing home, he tells the wives, except it's something else entirely.

Meanwhile back at home, first wife Beverly runs the clan with an iron will and a great many placards posted all over her house:

Please Place Shoes in Shoebox --Neatly and Quietly
Remember: Use Only Your Toothbrush and Your Toothbrush Only
Boys:  AIM!!! Please and Thank You.   

Fourth wife Trish longs for his attention, which leads to a running gag involving a piece of gum.

And Rusty, the chubby, almost adolescent child who falls somewhere in the middle of the pack, is caught trying on his sister's underwear, which earns him yet another banishment to his bedroom, and no dessert.  Don't let the underwear business turn you off to Rusty.  He is such a loveable misfit, I didn't know if I wanted the family to come to their senses and treat him nicer, or if I wanted to see his grand plans for revenge play out. 

Udall writes frankly about people's sex lives; how can you take on the subject of polygamy and not follow the characters into their bedrooms?  But he keeps it all in the service of getting the story told.  We peek through the keyhole long enough to understand what happened, then we move on.

And we meet such lovable and droll desert characters along the way:   The other seven apostles of Golden's fundamentalist sect.  (They haven't worked their way up to twelve yet.  "You'd think," says their leader, "that an outfit like this would grow.  But we just keep shrinking.")  The boss on the "nursing home" construction sight.   A creepily observant ostrich.  The wives, the tenants of Golden's rental houses, the "plyg kids," the sheriff, and even the atomic bombs going off in the nearby desert.

Yep, it was a good time for the snow to fall. 

And for dinner, we had  Slow-Cooked Chicken and Stuffing, which might have gone a long way toward feeding Golden's clan, except that the family kept dipping in for second and third servings. 

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