Tag Archives: polygamy

The 19th Wife – David Ebershoff

I think I promised I was done with polygamy books, but – it was a lie. I couldn’t resist picking this one up at the library. The premise is that it’s an intertwined story of the real life Ann Eliza – divorced wife of Brigham Young that caused quite a stir and may have contributed to the outlawing of polygamy and the fictional story of a “lost boy” of the Firsts (polygamist sect still living in Utah) and the story of his own mom who is suspected of killing her husband (of course, in a plural marriage).

I normally don’t love books with intertwined stories, but the twist of this book was that in addition to the two stories, there were (mainly fictional) articles from crusaders against polygamy and newspaper articles, etc.  It also used letters from Ann Eliza’s son, her father and the Master’s thesis from a modern BYU student. And that’s what I think I really enjoyed about the book – it gave more than just the point of view of the plural wife – but that of a husband, and of displaced boys.

I don’t think I am done with this subject yet. I still have to read “Under the Banner of Heaven”, but I would like to find some books about polygamy as told by men thrown out of the sect and of polygamous men. Anyone know of any? Fiction or non-fiction?

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Escape – Carolyn Jessop

Wow. This book was everything I had previously wanted but couldn’t find. I ordered it from the library when I was on my polygamy kick, but it just came in.  Jessop has been in the news lately as the first polygamist woman to win full custody of her kids, and really – the whole thing is amazing. These “bullet points” have been working for me, so …

  • Unusual, because while they sometimes face poverty – the family is actually pretty wealthy, so you get a different dimension to the story.
  • A real sub-plot is present, which is the apparently real love between her husband and his tyrannical, abusive 3rd wife. Definitely makes you want to know more, which we never will.
  • It’s all very raw. All of this stuff JUST happened to her and she doesn’t really sugarcoat anything, or have the lens of time to heal her wounds.
  • She escaped with her 8 kids, in the dead of night. One of them is severely handicapped.
  • Her daughter made the escape a hell, since she was convinced (along with the other kids) that mom was bringing them all to eternal damnation. At age 18, she rejoined FLDS.
  • Interesting, because her family was very powerful and directly related to Warren Jeffs. Just nice to be able to tie it all in the current events – in which she served as witness (but they don’t really go into that too much).
  • The abuse is just overwhelming. Physical, emotional and on all sides. The power struggles between sister-wives, the kids – it’s just horrifying.

Definitely the best book I have read on the subject and probably the last one, for awhile. This fulfilled my macabre need.

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Shattered dreams: My life as a polygamist’s wife – Irene Spencer.

May 13, 2008

Memoir about polygamy. I am kind of on a polygamy kick lately. The basic gist? Raised in polygamy, flirts with becoming monogamous, ends up capitulating. She had 13 kids (all single births) from the time she was 17 – 35.

The book was a good one to read – although I keep wishing they go more into the poverty and the actual day-to-day of it all. I always find myself wondering why we don’t hear more about the relationship between the sisterwives, or if they keep up with one another when the marriage is over.  By the time this book was written, this woman was a Born-Again Christian, so I can’t help but feel we are missing part of the story here. But it definitely made me want it. Also, I want more pictures damnit. Memoirs should always have more pictures than they do.

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