Synopses & Reviews
Winner of the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction
Shortlisted for the William Saroyan International Prize for Writing
Named "Outstanding 2014 Collection" by The Story Prize
Pushcart Prize WinnerIn this stunning debut, Shawn Vestal transports us to the afterlife, the rugged Northwest, and the early days of Mormonism. From “The First Several Hundred Years Following My Death,” an absurd, profound vision of a hellish heaven, to “Winter Elders,” in which missionaries calmly and relentlessly pursue a man who has left the fold, these nine stories illuminate the articles of faith that make us human.
The concluding triptych tackles the legends and legacy of Mormonism head-on, culminating in “Diviner,” a seriocomic portrait of the young Joseph Smith, back when he was not yet the founder of a religion but a man hired to find buried treasure. Godforsaken Idaho is an indelible collection by the writer you need to read next.Godforsaken Idaho named 'Outstanding 2013 Short Story Collections' by The Story Prize
"A family drama with stinging turns of dark comedy, the latest from Udall (The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint) is a superb performance and as comic as it is sublimely catastrophic. Golden Richards is a polygamist Mormon with four wives, 28 children, a struggling construction business, and a few secrets. He tells his wives that the brothel he's building in Nevada is actually a senior center, and, more importantly, keeps hidden his burning infatuation with a woman he sees near the job site. Golden, perpetually on edge, has become increasingly isolated from his massive family given the size of his brood, his solitude is heartbreaking since the death of one of his children. Meanwhile, his newest and youngest wife, Trish, is wondering if there is more to life than the polygamist lifestyle, and one of his sons, Rusty, after getting the shaft on his birthday, hatches a revenge plot that will have dire consequences. With their world falling apart, will the family find a way to stay together? Udall's polished storytelling and sterling cast of perfectly realized and flawed characters make this a serious contender for Great American Novel status." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Lovers of good writing will find this a pleasure, period." Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)
"Brady Udall's new book is funny, touching and powerful. Its images tickle and glow, disturb and soothe. Sprawling, ambitious, and assured, Mr. Udall's first novel since his 2001 debut, The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint, bursts with language and originality....Read this. It's a sure bet for Great American Novel of 2010." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
"A strength of the work is Udall's careful focus....Udall's prose is affectionate....A fair warning to the reader: The novel's prose and characters are addicting. Don't pick this one up unless you have the time to spend. It's original and lots of fun." The Denver Post
"The book reads easily, with much humor and occasional stabbing sorrow....I don't know how true to life this story may be. But it feels right, it reads beautifully and often hilariously, and I liked it an awful lot." The Oregonian
"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
"The Lonely Polygamist is a hefty, eager, and bittersweet novel, and it is a page-turner. Brady Udall deals with familial chaos, reckless behavior, and alarming pyrotechnics with wit, grace, and tenderness. He's an enchanter who casts his spell with exquisite sentences and unerring, evocative details. Here is a writer of inordinate compassion and formidable intelligence. Read this remarkable novel, friend, live with it, and I promise you this, little Rusty Richards will haunt your dreams." John Dufresne, author of Love Warps the Mind a Little
"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
" 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, stands with other great family novels such as and , and sets Udall on the top shelf of America's writers." Hannah Tinti, author of The Good Thief and Animal Crackers
Starred Review: A superb performance . . . Udall’s polished storytelling and sterling cast of perfectly realized and flawed characters make this a serious contender for Great American Novel status.Starred Review: Lovers of good writing will find this a pleasure, period.Starred Review: Udall observes with a keen eye for the ridiculous while showing compassion. Enthusiastically recommended.The novel you must read this summer.... a riveting emotional tornado of a novel.This is big-hearted American storytelling, the best new book I’ve read in years. -- Bonnie Jo Campbell, author of
The Lonely Polygamistis both an astounding feat and a sumptuous feast. This is the Second Coming of the Great American Novel. Or is it the Third? Who’s counting? Read this brilliant book. -- Rabih Alameddine, author of
“Shawn Vestals Godforsaken Idaho
is a wickedly funny, surprisingly profound collection. These nine stories of prophets and parents, of doppelgangers and pocket dogs, form a thrilling introduction to one of the wryest, most inventive new voices in fiction.”
—Jess Walter, author of Beautiful Ruins
“Godforsaken Idaho mixes the hardpan realism of Richard Ford's Rock Springs with the dreadful wonder of Dan Chaon's best stories. In the lyrical beauty of his sentences, in the brutal choices his characters must make, and in the heartbreaking landscape itself, Shawn Vestal finds startling moments of grace and unexpected redemption.” —Kim Barnes, author of In the Kingdom of Men
“Shutter your windows—Godforsaken Idaho is an awesome storm of history, grit, and revelatory imagination. These stories take huge risks and simply do not falter. Shawn Vestal has set out to reimagine the American West, and hes done so with the soulful, single-minded purpose of a half-mad pioneer.”
—Patrick Somerville, author of This Bright River and The Cradle
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.
From a luminous storyteller, a highly anticipated new novel about the American family writ large.
[An] exceptional tale of an exceptional family.A profoundly satisfying read, written with a ferocious verve and authenticity.Uproarious . . . Udall’s storytelling [displays] ease and humor.An absorbing, moving entertaining novel that will transport the reader into Golden’s chaotic world.I don’t know how true to life this story may be. But it feels right, and it reads beautifully and often hilariously, and I liked it an awful lot.A brilliantly crafted mini-epic that is at turns hilarious, terrifying, and heartbreaking . . . Cinematic . . . A potential classic.Entertaining . . . very moving . . . Impressive.If you're looking for a big, funny, moving novel to read this spring, look no farther.A rich, poignant look at a family whose lifestyle may seem absolutely aberrant, but for whom life’s issues are wholeheartedly normal.One of the best novels I’ve read in a while . . . Golden Richards, middle-aged, 6-foot-6 polygamist with an overbite, is one of the most appealing, original, and brilliantly tragicomic protagonists to appear in American fiction in some time.Terrifically thought-provoking . . . a constantly shifting but marvelously controlled story.[A] compelling, rollicking story.How often does The Great American Novel truly come along?The Lonely Polygamistis a great American novel, perhaps the great American novel of the year.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 Mountainand A River Runs Through It. But most of all it's Golden, Rusty and the novel's other complex characters that make The Lonely Polygamista potential classic. They remain with the reader after the last page is turned.
For fans of George Saunders and Raymond Carver, this powerful, imaginative story collection takes readers on a journey from the afterlife to contemporary times to the early days of Mormonism—a stunning debut by an acclaimed McSweeneys
and Tin House
About the Author
Brady Udall is the author of The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint, Letting Loose the Hounds, and The Lonely Polygamist. His work has appeared in The Paris Review, Esquire, Playboy, and elsewhere. He lives in Boise, Idaho.
Table of Contents
1. The First Several Hundred Years Following My Death 1
2. About as Fast as This Car Will Go 29
3. Families Are Forever! 45
4. Pocket Dog 71
5. Godforsaken Idaho 91
6. Winter Elders 105
7. Opposition in All Things 127
8. Gulls 169
9. Diviner 181