Saturday, September 29, 2007

Shattered Dreams: My Life as a Polygamist's Wife

by Irene Spencer
published 2007
pages 385

Genre: Memoir

I was prompted to purchase this book because of my infatuation with the HBO hit series, Big Love. I no longer have HBO, and when the second season began, I was pretty upset that I couldn't keep up on all the drama. This novel was reviewed in People magazine, and I felt it would provide me with insight and a different perspective of the polygamist lifestyle.
While reading her memoir, I couldn't help but compare it to the HBO series, considering that is the only true "inside" look I have had into the polygamist lifestyle. Aside from a few minor details, it is amazing how accurately HBO has portrayed this way of life.

Irene's story is heartbreaking. A page doesn't turn without some kind of tragedy or heartache--whether literal or figurative--physical or emotional. Irene's upbringing lead her to Verlan, an older man, who was already married to Charlotte, Irene's half-sister. With no formal courting, Verlan accepted his second wife--elated to now be in the running for celestial glory. Irene was his stepping stone; one that he referred back to many times during their many years of marriage.
Marrying Verlan at the young age of 16, Irene didn't have the opportunity to find out who she was or who she wanted to be--in a polygamist family no woman is given that time. She is to obey her husband and assist him in creating his kingdom. Irene's obligatory obedience lead her to a life of near-incessant pregnancy and constant neglect from her husband. Irene felt needed, as she was an integral part of the family, but she never felt fully loved by her husband.
Irene's doubt in her religion lead to unspeakable guilt. She never knew who or what to listen to--her religion or her heart. In spite of her feelings, Irene succumbed to the polygamist values, living a lifestyle she so desperately tried to believe.
Spencer takes the time to delve into the history of polygamy, educating her readers, while giving them a pure look into a world that not many have been privy to. Even though Spencer's raw memoir shows her during times of tremendous weakness, she somehow finds the strength to prevail, ultimately finding unconditional love.


Saturday, September 15, 2007

The Shadow of the Wind

by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Published 2001
pages 487

Genre: fiction/mystery

Stephen King noted this novel as "one gorgeous read," which could have attributed to the enjoyment I found through its pages; however, it was, without a doubt, the most entertaining novel I have read in a long time. The others I read this summer had good and unique qualities, but this one struck me as one that I will turn to over and over again.

Young Daniel is taken, by his widowed father, to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books. Daniel is an avid reader, and is overwhelmed by this mysterious place his father has taken him to. Once inside the cemetery, Daniel is instructed to search through the labyrinth for any book--one that jumps out--it is that book that he will adopt as his own. Daniel finds "The Shadow of the Wind" by Julian Carax in a far corner. Daniel spends a sleepless night leafing through the pages until, satisfied, he closes the book. It was the best book he had ever read. When a family friend offers Daniel an exorbitant amount of money for the book, Daniel becomes suspicious and intrigued with the potential worth of the book he chose.
After some detective work, Daniel learns that someone is searching the globe for every copy of every book Carax ever wrote and burning them. This book turns Daniel's world upside down, but also brings him wisdom and an understanding of the world around him. The more he discovers, the less he actually knows. He is sent on wild goose chases that lead him to interesting characters with not-always beneficial information. The plot is intricate and labyrinthine, enigmatic and fascinating.
Zafon's style is effortlessly eloquent: Bea says that the art of reading is slowly dying, that it's an intimate ritual, that a book is a mirror that offers us only what we already carry inside us, that when we read, we do it with all our heart, and mind, and great readers are becoming more scarce by the day. The imagery is astounding; it lurks, traveling with the breeze through every page.
Zafon will definitely become a name I look for.