Review - Sister Wife by Shelley Hrdlitschka

There is something about the Mormon Religion (the polygamist sect specifically) that has me captivated. It could be the complete difference in their way of life as ours. It could be the way I feel about women and they should have every right to choose as men do. It could be the pain I feel for women too young to be forced to choose a life they are not ready for or the fact that I wish we had more support and advice for girls. But I don't want to pass judgment either. I believe that not all polygamist families are run the same way with pressure, oppression and obedience. I love the thought of a bunch of women living together. I also love the idea of big families and smaller communities. Though I know there is so much more to it. Not to mention, on a completely unrelated note, I am a huge fan of the HBO series Big Love which I feel portrays both good and bad of the lifestyle.

I saw this book in the digital library and just knew I wanted to read it. It didn't let me down.

It told the story of a family of girls: two of which are from the traditional lifestyle and one of which was saved from the streets to come live with the family. It is in this dynamic that creates tension because there is one who sets themselves apart and asks questions, another who has some answers that creates more questions and one who feels she has all of it figured out.

I loved the way this book followed these three girls and their choices, all of which were different and for different reasons. I find it sad that we make decisions based on our ignorance and it comes back to haunt us. It was equally sad to know that the faith we have in ourselves and a higher being could be that which ruins us too. Being a believer in goodness and people, I find myself disappointed on a constant basis because things are what I feel they should be. It is a very eye opening thing to experience as a girl growing up trying to find her way in what may be a man's world. I really felt a kinship with each of these girls in this book.

GoodReads summary of the book -
In the isolated rural community of Unity, the people of The Movement live a simple life guided by a set of religious principles and laws that are unique to them. Polygamy is the norm, strict obedience is expected and it is customary for young girls to be assigned to much older husbands. Celeste was born and raised in Unity, yet she struggles to fit in. Perhaps it's because of Taviana, the girl who has come to live with them and entertains Celeste with forbidden stories, or Jon, the young man she has clandestine meetings with, or maybe it's the influence of Craig, the outsider she meets on the beach. Whatever it is, she struggles to accept her ordained life. At fifteen she is repulsed at the thought of being assigned to an older man and becoming a sister wife, and she knows for certain she is not cut out to raise children. She wants something more for herself, yet feels powerless to change her destiny because rebelling would bring shame upon her family. Celeste watches as Taviana leaves Unity, followed by Jon, and finally Craig, the boy who has taught her to think "outside the box." Although she is assigned to a caring man, his sixth wife, she is desperately unhappy. How will Celeste find her way out of Unity? Torn from the headlines and inspired by current events, Sister Wife is a compelling portrait of a community where the laws of the outside world are ignored and where individuality is punished.
I also highly recommend the following books as well -
Escape by Carolyn Jessop
The Church of Lies by Flora Jessop
The Nineteenth Wife by David Ebershoff
Stolen Innocence by Elissa Wall
Not Without My Daughter by Betty Mahmoody (a fantastic movie with Sally Field)


kt moxie said...

Just one comment -- the polygamist "Mormons" we hear about in the news are not the Mormons that make up the "real" Mormon church. The polygamists are a secluded sect (or a couple of secluded sects) that separated themselves from the main Mormon church when the Mormom church denounced polygamy in the late 1800s.

Still very captivating to learn about these unusual sects, though!

heavenisabookstore said...

KT: You're absolutely right. I should have clarified this in my post. Thanks!

ladychiara said...

Interesting that your post should pop up on my list today. I just finished reading 'Escape' by Carolyn Jessop. I found it a thought provoking, alarming and incredibly sad read. Religion is always such a sensitive topic.Personally I find it incredibly sad that so many awful things are done (especially to girls and women) in the name of religious beliefs.I admire people who have a strong faith yet see many incongruencies in the living of such faith.One can only imagine how difficult it must be to shake off the ingrained beliefs of a lifetime to escape a community such as described in this book.

jayayceeblog said...

Escape was so good. I'll have to give Sister Wife a try! Thanks for the recommendation!