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.


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