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Shattered Dreams: My Life as a Polygamist's Wife

3.80  ·  Rating Details  ·  5,479 Ratings  ·  697 Reviews
IRENE SPENCER grew up in a fundamentalist Mormon family- the thirteenth of thirty-one children- so it was no surprise that she found herself, at sixteen years of age, in a plural marriage, sharing her husband with a half sister.

Enduring abject poverty, living in isolation, and suffering the neglect of a husband with divided loyalties created unbearable conditions. Yet Iren
Hardcover, 385 pages
Published August 22nd 2007 by Center Street
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Petra X
Update This is a view I hadn't considered before, and maybe it doesn't apply to fundamentalists, but the view has to come from somewhere. I was watching that show Sister Wives on tv. The fourth wife said that she didn't want to marry just a man, she wanted to marry a family and friends. She said she didn't want to be the first wife because she would have the agony of jealousy when the second one came in. She didn't want to be the second who would have to live with that. She wanted to be a third ...more
Nov 11, 2007 Skye rated it liked it
Fascinating train wreck of a story, but my feminist sensibilities had a hard time allowing the author to lead such a life. She turned down a chance a real love to do what she thought god wanted. Strike one. Followed "signs" to lead her into what she knew would be a life of submission and silence. Strike two. Any children would also be prey. Strikes three, four, and five.
At the hands of men, she had decades full of heartbreak, broken promises, charismatic bullies and endless suffering under the p
Aug 27, 2007 Renee rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: want an in depth look and understanding of pologamy
Shattered Dreams is a fascinating look at a way of life totally foreign to most people. Irene Spencer grew up in the branch of the Mormon faith that still believed in polygamy. The second of what was ultimately her husband's ten wives, she became the mother of thirteen of his 58 children. The statistics are important as they show the unimaginable situation in which Irene Spencer spend much of her life.

This book is a brutally honest memoir of a woman' life. It follows her from place to place, ne
Sep 12, 2008 Maren rated it it was amazing
I have so many thoughts after reading this book. Let me preface my notes by saying that I could hardly put my mind to rest last night after finishing this...:

1. Why in the world did Irene stay with Verlan so long? My conclusion is that either she's a complete push-over and enabler, or the brainwashing was beyond her ability to get past. Or both. Honestly, I am still in awe at her raising dozens of kids (yes, dozens since two of her sister-wives left for jobs and she raised their kids too in many
Ruth Turner
Dec 05, 2014 Ruth Turner rated it did not like it
Shelves: abandoned


What a colossal pain in the a** this woman is…

Yes, I’ll marry you, Glen.

Ummm…no, I don’t think I will afterall.

I’ve changed my mind. I’ll marry you.

Ummm…well no, maybe not.

Guess what? Changed my mind again. Let’s get married.

Ummm…no, I guess not.

Ok, this time for sure.

Damn…changed my mind again. Sorry, Glen.

Go to hell, says Glen.

Smart man. What took you so long?

Well, maybe not so smart!

Ummmm…wait a minute…maybe God will say it’s ok to marry you even though you aren’t a believer.

Ummm…sorry. G
Sep 24, 2008 Sara rated it really liked it
Recommended to Sara by: Newspaper
Shelves: non-fiction, 2008, memoir
It was interesting to read this after reading Carolyn Jessup's Escape. Both memoirs are about the author's polygamous marriage with the "blessing" of FLDS, but they center on different aspects of it; whereas Escape spoke not only of the authors abusive marriage but also getting out of it and getting custody of her children through the court system, this book is more about the hardships endured by those in this polygamous society and the author's struggle with her belief system and her desire to ...more
Books Ring Mah Bell
Apr 05, 2010 Books Ring Mah Bell rated it really liked it
Irene Spencer takes us inside her life as wife #2 (out of 9!!!) in a Polygamist union. A life that is NOT easy, by any stretch. She does pretty well living in poverty; for many years not having enough food, not having electricity or running water. She has to make her own underwear and maternity clothes (sometimes out of flour sacks).

The part she struggles with is sharing her husband. I wish I could say I felt for her, but honestly, after the 25th time she's throwing a tantrum and crying on her
This book deserves six stars in my mind. I have been reading since I could read and I think that I was 6 when I got my first library card. I have never read a book like this in my entire reading history! I am amazed at what this woman went through and her ultimate testimony of how she continues to speak out and help other polygamist wives caught in this hellish trap. At some point while reading I felt physically and emotionally caught on a train that was proceeding towards a cliff! No worries, I ...more
Nov 28, 2007 Carrie rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Mormons
While reading this book, I discovered my husband may still technically belong to the Mormon church his mom signed him up for as a kid. Well, probably not, since they excommunicated his sister.

Myself, I totally disagree with Mormonism, polygamy, and people who do things for religious purposes, especially when it goes against common sense. I kind of enjoyed the story just to see how different someone's life can be from mine. There were a lot of extremely unfortunate incidents described here that
Sep 24, 2007 Karen rated it liked it
Reading this book left me with at least one clear and resounding thought: "Thank God I wasn't raised in a crazy religious cult." Irene Spencer tells a mesmerizing tale of her upbringing as a fourth generation fundamentalist Mormon, an upbringing that led her into a polygamous marriage at age sixteen. Taught all her life to uphold the Principle of plural marriage, the author sacrificed again and again, leaving a man she truly loved (but whose insistence on monogamy would have damned her eternally ...more
Oct 29, 2007 Julie rated it liked it
It was interesting to me that a book on polygamy was on the Amazon Top 100, so I put it on hold at the library. I think the authors story, while certainly tragic, is different from most of the polygamist girls that are married off young. Her mother left her father (as did another of the fathers 3 wives) when the author was young. Her mother then begged her for years not to follow into polygamy. She had a nice guy she was in love with who was desperate to marry her - monogamously. Yet she still c ...more
Oct 11, 2008 Jessica rated it it was ok
I think I was equally horrified and fascinated by this book. The author was a really feisty woman, and that made the situations she had to endure a lot easier to read about. I even found myself laughing at different parts. With that said, I was annoyed at her often inaccurate connections to the LDS and FLDS churches (mostly relating to their reasons for practicing polygamy). I also was disappointed by the ending of the book. I kept waiting for the whole "what didn't kill me made me stronger" spe ...more
Shelley Kresan
Jul 18, 2014 Shelley Kresan rated it it was ok
Probably the 10th book in a succession of books about the FLDS and fundamentalist Mormons. This one HAS to be the most frustrating to me. She balks at the lifestyle from the beginning and seemed to have a strong spirit, but she stayed and stayed. She went through all this when it was at least physically easier to leave, but despite all evidence to the contrary she believed that the Principle was her only way to be a Goddess and continue to serve the man who put her through hell throughout eterni ...more
Apr 23, 2008 Abby rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this memoir. Knowing very little about the fundamentalist Mormon church, I found Spencer's candor and honesty about being a polygamist's wife refreshing, heartbreaking, and informative. Spencer never stoops to the level of pathos or moralizing. She tells her story straight-up and to the point, detailing how she falls in love with her brother-in-law and becomes his second wife, the abject poverty she lived in for much of her life, bearing 13 children, and more often than not, car ...more
Mar 30, 2009 Michele rated it it was amazing
Too Many Wives . . . Too Many Kids
I can honestly say I’ve never read anything quite like the life story of Irene Spencer in her memoir Shattered Dreams: My Life as a Polygamist’s Wife. Stories like this are seldom told. Either the subject doesn’t live to tell the tale, or more specifically, her lack of formal education, interaction with the outside world OR her religion would forbid it.

My first thought upon finishing this long story of poverty, grief and heartache was, thank GOD she escaped this
Nov 12, 2008 Alycia rated it it was ok
When she went back to Vernon at the end, I wanted to slap her.
Maria Armada
Very interesting book. A quick summation would be: a biography of a woman who followed a fundametalist mormon lifestyle which demands polygamy. Her husband married 7 women, she was the second wife, and bore him 13 children (out of a total of 47) and raised them in dire poverty in rural Mexico.
I had passed up this book several times but then I read "Prophet of Blood" about the FLDS cult run by the LeBaron brothers and this women was married to one of the "non-prophet" brothers (over 4 Lebaron b
Jan 28, 2012 Annika rated it it was ok
If I mark this as 2 stars, it looks like I really disliked it, when two stars = "okay". If I mark it as 3 stars, it says "I liked it" and that is quite a stretch. I didn't LIKE it. I just was interested by the incredible horror that is polygamy (you can already see that I'm biased) and so I read this account.

Yes, I understand this is ONE woman's account of polygamy and being a "sister-wife" for almost 30 years.

I understand she does not speak for all sister-wives.

But I went into this with my own
Sep 04, 2011 Pauline rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone open enough to read about a life that is not their own
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Apr 30, 2009 Erin rated it really liked it
This book filled in some of the gaps that Favorite Wife didn't cover. This book is by Verlan's second wife, Irene, while Favorite Wife is by Verlan's 5th wife, Susan. I found both pretty enthralling. I doubt though that a reader could have followed this book as well without having read Favorite Wife first. This book makes a lot of references to things that I only understood as a result of having read the other book. It's pretty interesting that both wives, despite ultimately leaving the religion ...more
Oct 01, 2009 jenn rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2009
This book is seriously frakked up. I'm glad Irene Spencer shared her story, when so many women in her situation, even today, suffer in silence. I spent most of the book pretty shocked and angry that anyone would put their kids through this level of poverty. Particularly when the author's constant defense of her actions was that she liked sleeping with her "husband" too much to leave him. Dude, when your baby falls through the rotting floor of an outhouse and almost drowns in pee and poop, it mig ...more
Nouran Attia
Mar 26, 2015 Nouran Attia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was having some sort of reader's block, but this book was interesting enough to grab my attention and push me forward to keep on going. It discussed Mormonism and practicing polygamy which was something I never knew existed before reading this book. It was gripping to see the character go through all that in her lifetime and actually know that this is for real and that this really happened. On the other hand, listening to the character complain and thinking why isn't she taking some course of ...more
Oct 08, 2014 Kavita rated it it was ok
Having recently read His Favourite Wife: Trapped in Polygamy by Susan Ray Schmidt, I wanted to read about Susan's sister-wife, Irene Spencer. Shattered Dreams: My Life as a Polygamist's Wife is Irene's autobiography, describing her life from the time of her mother's divorce to her husband's death in a car accident, suspected to be murder.

The book lacks something - a story, linearity, perhaps even the truth? Spencer writes from a retrospective view, with the full benefit of hindsight. She claims
Oct 28, 2009 Jennifer rated it liked it
Well, I finished this last night and,.. this book was so much more emotionally draining that I thought it would be, it caught me off guard at times. As stressful and painful as it was, I did enjoy the book. The writing was superb and so very easy to loose yourself in. I honestly had to put the book down at points and just cry... I was so overwhelmed by this woman's trials and heartache. But with that being said, I was angered by some of her misguided decisions too ~ and how she made ...more
Oct 03, 2011 Sharon rated it really liked it
Irene Spencer's memoir is a sobering tale about the realities of life for women in the Fundamentalist Latter-day Saints (FLDS) world. She speaks frankly of the horrid squalor and poverty in which she and her "sister-wives" lived during their marriage to FLDS President Verlan LeBaron until his death in 1981.

To say that LeBaron was psychologically abusive is to greatly understate the situation; he eventually took 10 wives, often dumping their children on Irene to care for (he had a total of 58 chi
Jan 26, 2011 Melissa rated it really liked it
Shelves: religion, non-fiction
Having already read "His Favorite Wife" I was much surprised to find out that this book was written by a sister-wife of "His Favorite Wife"'s author. Eagerly, I set into it to find a different perspective of the same family. And like the others, I found it immensely heart breaking.

Irene starts the tale of her life as a small girl growing up in a polygamous family. Coming from four generations of polygamy, the doctrines are all she knows of life. When her mother leaves her father and becomes marr
Tracy Lee
Mar 18, 2010 Tracy Lee rated it it was ok
Interesting. Easy to read. Gave some insight as to how a woman married to a man married to 8 other women lives (answer: not very well). Frustrating because throughout the book the author makes very definitive statements about how she won't do certain things and how she's leaving the husband (she was wife #2) and how miserable she is/hates her life/depressed/suicidal, each child she gives birth to without the husband even being in the same country is going to be her last...until the next baby... ...more
Bree T
Nov 26, 2013 Bree T rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
Irene Spencer was born into a polygamist household. Her mother was one of four wives, although she did leave Irene’s father when Irene was still a child. Despite the fact that Irene did not spend her entire adolescence growing up within a polygamist arrangement, she certainly had enough teachings of their fundamentalist Mormon faith to feel the need to fulfill her role as a vessel for a man. Although Irene had the chance of a monogamous marriage borne of love, ultimately she turned her back on t ...more
Feb 16, 2011 Cherrybomb rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 100-in-2011
I've read lots of these polygamist wives' books and this was, by far, the best.

Usually I am skeptical of parts of these stories and always take into consideration that this is only one person's side of the story. In this particular case, I believed every word of it. The author comes across as sincere and believable. She reveals her own faults as well as everyone elses which makes for a much more realistic account.

Well written and interesting, this book brought me into the author's world. This is
Apr 03, 2011 Misha rated it liked it
I really enjoyed reading the perspective of one polygamists's experience. She was not entirely factual, especially when she spoke of the LDS church, but I did find her story intriguing. How she could remember so many details and conversations, is a little questionable, but otherwise I think it's a very interesting read. There seem to be so many more problems, jealousies and sadness in this type of relationship. Irene Spencer used the quote from Brigham Young that said "Polygamy will dam more peo ...more
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Anyone read both "Shattered Dreams" and "Favorite Wife"? 7 36 May 01, 2013 07:42PM  
  • His Favorite Wife: Trapped in Polygamy
  • Church of Lies
  • Daughter of the Saints: Growing Up in Polygamy
  • When Men Become Gods: Mormon Polygamist Warren Jeffs, His Cult of Fear, and the Women Who Fought Back
  • God's Brothel: The Extortion of Sex for Salvation
  • Lost Boy
  • Daughters of Zion: A Family's Conversion to Polygamy
  • Secrets and Wives: The Hidden World of Mormon Polygamy
  • Prophet's Prey: My Seven-Year Investigation into Warren Jeffs and the Fundamentalist Church of Latter-Day Saints
  • Triumph
  • Keep Sweet: Children of Polygamy
  • Seductive Poison: A Jonestown Survivor's Story of Life and Death in the Peoples Temple
  • Heaven's Harlots: My Fifteen Years as a Sacred Prostitute in the Children of God Cult
  • Love Times Three: Our True Story of a Polygamous Marriage
  • Stolen Innocence: My Story of Growing Up in a Polygamous Sect, Becoming a Teenage Bride, and Breaking Free of Warren Jeffs
  • I'm Perfect, You're Doomed: Tales from a Jehovah's Witness Upbringing
  • Leaving the Saints: How I Lost the Mormons and Found My Faith
  • The Secret Lives of Saints: Child Brides and Lost Boys in a Polygamous Mormon Sect

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