This is the best book I have read on what it is like to live in a polygamist family. The majority of these troubled-life memoirs lack structure, and/oThis is the best book I have read on what it is like to live in a polygamist family. The majority of these troubled-life memoirs lack structure, and/or don't seem to know enough about the differences between life in a polygamist family and life in a mainstream family in order to show the differences.
It really effectively illustrates (although I don't think this was the author's intention) the way these boys get set up to fail in the wider world. Polygamist culture, which, more often than not work out to be more like a series of single mothers trying to raise eight kids apiece, encourages distrust of authorities, a belief that you are above the law and are not answerable for your actions, that ends justify means, that suffering is to be ignored and discounted, and above all secrets must be kept from society at large, from the rest of the community, from the tattling members of a family, and from yourself. Status and image matter more than hard work. All of this is the perfect makings for a drug addict.
Frankly, it's the only memoir from an ex-FLDS person that I really felt I could trust. Another thing about being raised in a cult is the tendency to lie, whether to Gentiles ("Answer them nothing"), or to your family ("No need to air dirty laundry," "If you don't have anything nice to say don't say anything else), and to yourself ("If you just have faith enough, you don't need to weigh anything based on evidence.") It's the only book that talks frankly about the cousin intermarriage, and the rampant sexual abuse.
I think what it really illustrates is how different life was before Warren Jeffs really came to power. When Mackert left the cult, he was able to get a GED with flying colors and enter the army. Some of the kids who are dumped on the street now, do not know what side of WWII Germany fought on. They can barely read, sometimes have no math skills, and have such poorly-developed people skills that they can't tell that drug dealers are dangerous people to befriend. (Even with all this, they can sometimes enter the army, but the odds of success there are slim.)
I could see some mainstream Mormons having difficulty with the portrayal of their (heretical) sect as a cult. This book is clearly written with one particular audience in mind: the evangelicals who are Mackert's current church home. To be honest, I was expecting to be bashed over the head a lot more with Pentacostal propaganda, but there's only one or two places that made me gag. (view spoiler)[ Like when his father dies in dementia-related agony, and he takes this as God's punishment on him and a foretaste of hell. Yeah. Well. There's plenty of other people who have dementia, too... (hide spoiler)]
Also to be honest, I don't see that he's changed his belief structure all that much. (And this is the ex-evangelical talking here.) He's gone from one set of fundamentalist beliefs to another, but never changed the way of determining truth (i.e. taking spiritual feelings to be "evidence" of historical reality, etc.) Overall, I'm pretty sure he's happier where he is, and frankly, I probably wouldn't recommend my own agnostic freethought to someone who was raised in a cult. I just couldn't see it being all that meaningful to someone who's expecting miracles and visions and powerful conversion experiences. ...more
Oddly, I find this one the least-offensive fictional portrayals of polygamists.
Despite the fact that the author does use a few generalizations (likeOddly, I find this one the least-offensive fictional portrayals of polygamists.
Despite the fact that the author does use a few generalizations (like the insistence that all polygamists look the same, ouch), and has the LDS insistence on referring to the cultists only as polygamists, not as fundamentalist Mormons (which is what they refer to themselves as), the author has clearly done honest research-- a rarity for fictional books about the FLDS people, which tend to rely heavily on shock value, grotesque stereotypes, and "hooray for us, we aren't polygamists."
I think it helps that the story is told from outsider's perspectives, and so you don't have the garish absurdity of having a person raised in a cult walk and talk like everybody else....more
Four stars for writing style, and some bits that could have been made tighter.
Six stars for changed-my-lifed quality.
After reading this, I spent twoFour stars for writing style, and some bits that could have been made tighter.
Six stars for changed-my-lifed quality.
After reading this, I spent two weeks unable to sleep through the night. I once knew someone from this sect. We talked about a lot of things-- religion and polygamous life, mainly. He said I saved his life. I finally know what he meant....more
This book was originally published under the title "Predators, Prey and Other Kinfolk." The change in title seems odd to me.
It is a sometimes sentimenThis book was originally published under the title "Predators, Prey and Other Kinfolk." The change in title seems odd to me.
It is a sometimes sentimental look at a childhood spent in a world vastly different from anything most of us can imagine. Later on, the author deals with many of the devastating emotions that come from leaving any faith system....more