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Secrets and Wives: The Hidden World of Mormon Polygamy
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Secrets and Wives: The Hidden World of Mormon Polygamy

3.82 of 5 stars 3.82  ·  rating details  ·  391 ratings  ·  62 reviews
What do we really know about modern practicing polygamists?not fictional ones like the Henrickson family on HBOOCOs "Big Love"? WeOCOve seen the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in the news, the underage brides in pioneer dresses on a Texas ranch. But the FLDS is just one of many groups that have broken with mainstream Mormonism to follow those pa ...more
ebook, 385 pages
Published May 1st 2011 by Soft Skull Press (first published January 1st 2011)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,263)
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Barbara Z.
One of my favorite reads of the year, and a fresh take on a subject which has been nearly wrung-dry in most media. Some people will never get enough of the autobiographical "I escaped polygamy" genre, but I did, and the subset of those books which wind up with the author finding Jesus makes me cower in apprehension of the sequel, when the victim escapes their new cult.

But "Secrets and Wives" isn't like any of those books, nor like any non-fiction tome I've hefted on the subject. It's a personal
...more
Alison Dellit
I had much higher expectations from this book than it reached, but still glad I read it. Bhattacharya managed a great deal of access to several of the organised polygamous groups around Utah and the US desert, and with a journalist's appreciation for who, what, when, where and why, his outline of the details of the groups and their relationships with each other alone makes the book worth reading.

It focuses mainly on the smaller groups - one of my frustrations was my interest in the AUB, which B
...more
Louisa
So about a third of the way through Secrets and Wives it went missing. I searched everywhere for it--through various rarely used handbags, bookshelves (both at home and at the library), behind the bed where many a book has in the past gone to die but nothing. It seemed to have vanished.

And then three days ago, I found it under a pile of to-be-dry-cleaned coats in my closet. Weird--which could pretty much sum up the disturbing but ultimately rewarding adventure that is reading it.

The thing is, i
...more
Bryan Schatz
This book blew me away. You are immediately launched into an entirely intriguing and wholly bizarre world where prophets dictate their mini-societies, outsiders are looked on with suspicion, and the apocalypse is surely just around the corner. It's incredibly entertaining, often hilarious, but also is a story told with compassion. As the author penetrates the various polygamist communities, you get a real sense of the individuals and families whose lives have been formed around fundamentalist be ...more
Natalie
I was fascinated by this book. Other reviewers criticized Bhattacharya's frequent insertion of self into the story, but I saw that as the point: I get *him.* He's a regular dude I could relate to. His questions, thoughts, and opinions were much like what I imagine mine would be if I had been researching this book. I appreciated having a relatable guide through Polygamy Wonderland (and yo, even the back of the book says it's the personal story of a "stranger in a strange land"). I thought his por ...more
Catherine
I enjoyed Sanjiv Bhattacharya's book. He didn't seem to have an ax to grind with the polygamist families. He did a lot of leg work and research in order to bring the reader a view of many of the polygamist cults in Utah. I felt his growth through the book. I didn't enjoy the beginning of the book as much as the middle and end because he seemed at bit too sarcastic, but as he learned more about the culture of polygamy, I saw his growth, and his sarcasm became tempered with understanding. I was gl ...more
K2 -----
I found this book fascinating but also quite depressing knowing this underworld exists. It rambled a bit too much and could have had a much heavier editing hand.

Bhattacharya, an atheist, sets out to try to comprehend the fringe elements of the LDS and presents to us the story of plural marriage as he understands it. Being East Indian, and an outsider, he stood out most places he went to research this book and encountered more than his share of closed doors. The doors he did get to open were allo
...more
Stephanie
I actually read the about 25% of this book and sent it back to Amazon for a refund. While the author talks about how he wants to write an unbiased, untainted book on polygamy his disdain for the Mormon religion and his personal rants clearly showed his lack of respect for the lifestyle and the religion. I am a sociologist and I wanted to read a more factual book, one that presented the issue of polygamy in a different light than what was already out there. I wanted to see a culturally relativist ...more
Christy
I didn't know what to expect when I started this but I really liked it. The documenting of the evolution of the Mormon Fundamentalist groups from inception to modern day is fascinating. And it goes deeper to include personal stories that had me laughing out loud or tearing up from one page to the next.

I think because the author is an atheist it gave him a different perspective on the polygamy issue than I've seen before. He didn't seem to have preconceived notions or judgements on the subject.
...more
Jeremytucker31
Sanjiv has put together the most comprehensive and honest piece on Utah's Mormon Fundamentalist culture yet. Previously, great books have been done by ex members on their specific stories of escape, but Secrets and Wives gives you a realistic view of all the major players. Sanjiv shows the influence that these groups already have on Utah politics and the resulting "Blind Eye" that Utah officials turn on Mormon Fundamentalist criminals. Even though the book covers a very dark and serious subject ...more
Catherine
The author had limited access--despite his tenacity--trying to penetrate the secret world of polygamists. The writing was scattered and the stories, though individualized and personal, were more anecdotal in nature, stereotypical, and lacked real in-depth reportage.

The author goes off on a couple of personal rants that definitely, for me, took away from the core storyline. I didn’t discover any new information about this subject and was less than impressed with the final product.
Pam
This is a fascinating look at polygamy told by an exceedingly balanced author. As fair as he is in the telling of this tale, I can't find any redeeming attributes to the practice of polygamy. Brainwashing, abuse, and the victimization of women is extremely prevalent. Sure, there may be an exception here and there - but I think even in the seemingly good situations, the women lose their voice and thus their ability to say this is wrong. It takes a very strong woman to step away from the cult. Mr. ...more
Morris Thurston
I found this book entertaining and diverting. Bhattacharya is a talented writer and he keeps the reader engaged by inserting himself into his story of the various offshoot Mormon polygamous cults. The book is creative nonfiction and, as such, one wonders how much creative license he has taken.

This book is not about the mainstream Mormon Church, which discarded polygamy over 100 years ago. However, in order to introduce the subject, Bhattacharya includes a chapter on Mormon history and he someti
...more
Jennifer
I thought this was such an interesting read. The title is a little misleading. It's really more a memoir of one man's journey through the weird underbelly of Utah than a sketch of polygamy. But, he is funny, sarcastic and honest about what he's seeing and feeling. I really found the snapshots into the different groups fascinating and frightening. Living in Salt Lake City made it especially disturbing.
Jane
What a fantastic book!
This isn't a fanatical, sensationalized diatribe of the tired short creek series, or a book about polygamy and underaged girls. I took something away from this book, which was a better understanding of these communities and some of their beliefs.

The author was relatable and had an almost satirical writing style. I enjoyed his use of pop culture references during times of what I'm sure he felt readers felt major disconnect to the culture shock.

The author managed to write
...more
Ingrid Lola
4.5 stars. By far the best polygamy book I've read.
Michelle Robinson
I am enjoying the tone and pace of this book. WHile the subject is serious, one gets the feeling that the author does not take himself too seriously.


I just finished this book. It was a little daunting, the number of people that one had to keep straight, got to me at points in the reading. I also was a bit overwhelmed by the Mormon and fundamentalist Mormon doctrine.

The thing that sets this book apart for me, as a person who has read many works of nonfiction about Mormon polygamists in America,
...more
James
Fascinating look inside the the hidden world of US Mormon-based polygamy. This isn't the vanilla world of Sister Wives, or at least the little bits of that show I've managed to sit through. These are the groups that have 'compounds', entire towns, family trees that don't fork. Oh, and secrecy. The author spends a lot of time with hardcore believers to get inside their heads, and brings back a frightening, irreverent mix of notes about power, patriarchy, religious belief, freedom, and control.

Th
...more
Waywardspirit
Sanjiv more than anything, in my experience, connected. I appreciate this more than I can thank him for. Most writers, looking into, or escaping Mormon fundamentalism or polygamy, seem to have that big axe to grind or chop with. I'm fascinated by the way he looked into my own issues, since the whole story is sorta mine. He sorted it out for me. A cathartic experience I might add. Better than therapy. Sanjiv brought his own parallel quest into mysticism with hilarious, colorful, perspective to th ...more
Diana Myers
Interesting because it covers those groups you don't hear about. He didn't cover the FLDS, the Dargers or Sister Wives, he's out there in the suburbs and the rural small towns talking about communities that you never knew existed. My only issue with the book is that the author sometimes stumbles into rationalist elitism, which is inappropriate when researching religion. As my religious studies professors always said in college, it's not whether or not the beliefs of a person are valid or not, it ...more
Ella
Well written and surprisingly funny at points, Bhattacharya's in depth investigation of various polygamous Mormon sects in Utah is definitely worth a read for anyone interested in modern Mormonism, fundamentalism, and religious life in America. Hardly as sensational as Jon Krakauer's similar themed "Under the Banner of Heaven", Sanjiv Bhattacharya seems determined to remain objective and is present throughout the work as both a narrator and investigator. For the most part, his detachment is succ ...more
Leah
This is an excellent book but it's hard to say "liked it!". It is well-written and engaging. The author strives to present a view of some of the less well-known Mormon polygamous sects and communities, not just the Warren Jeffs/FLDS group that's been all over the media. And he does a good job, somehow gaining these people's trust (by and large) and gaining access to groups that had not spoken to any journalists before.

Be warned: This book contains some graphic descriptions of child abuse and its
...more
Spencer Peacock
I was surprised this book was as good as it was. I brought it home from the library on a whim. Thinking that I'd skim through it. Growing up mormon, and having read quite a bit of books from former FLDS members I thought there was nothing new I could learn. Wow. I had no idea there were so many groups out there. Many reviews say that Bhattacharaya rambled, but he didn't. The thing is, there's no way to make sense out of all of these polygamist groups. There's offshoots of the mainstream mormon c ...more
Beth Gordon
I appreciate the effort the author made to get personal stories and infiltrate these groups. While he speaks with some snark, particularly initially, he does get some info. Limited by whom will actually talk with him, some of the stories are a bit meandering. For whatever reason, I didn't find his investigations as compelling as I thought I would.
Kate
Giving up on this one for now...may finish at a Time when I don't have SO many other books on my list that look interesting. This book seemed much more opinion that fact in the 39 pages I read. I'm very fascinated by Mormon polygamy, but this didn't do much for me. The author seemed very snarky, but not in a funny way.
Katie
Serious page turner but I struggle with how much credibility to give the author. His descriptions of downtown Salt Lake City and mainstream Mormon members was a bit too Zombieish, which makes me question his truthfulness about the different fundamentalist Mormon sects. Jon Krakauer anyone?
Candace
Done from a journalistic point of view, and you can see further in the book that he gets a little too involved with the subject. I was asking myself if referring to the pural wives he encountered in his book as "hot" was a breach of ethics, but reflexivity is important, I guess. As he was introduced to members of the community, and then refused access later in the book, he was approached by women to help them leave the community... I'll leave you to read what happens; just questionable ethics, a ...more
Katie
An intriguing read about the various sects of the Mormon lifestyles. Sanjiv goes into detail about the creationism of Mormonism through their prophet Joseph Smith as was the splits between groups to form modern Mormonism, Foundamentalists, Centennial Park, The Order, and more. Through this journey, he also scraped up information on how ecah group views Polygamy. His research also leads him to a bit of self-discovery about what he believes. In my opinion, I felt that for an outsider, Sanjiv, did ...more
Austin Archibald
A really interesting read of a random atheist who wanted to explore all varieties of Mormon Fundamentalism. It's more sensationalist in nature, so the bad is highlighted and the good is mostly dismissed. His commentary throughout the book was both interesting and comical, but his condescending attitude was a bit distasteful at times. It reminded me of Krakauer's book in some ways: fascinating stories about Mormon fundamentalist sociopaths. We live in a crazy world, and this book gives us an ente ...more
Katya
While a book of this size and scope could have easily gotten bogged down in details and lost the reader's interest, this book never did. Each new face, each new story is presented with a freshness that kept me turning the pages. It's not an objective book- the author doesn't hide his own feelings about polygamy- but he leaves the majority of the book's space for the opinions and experiences of those he interviews. Polygamy is a polarizing subject and I think this is one of the more-calmly-and-ra ...more
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