Rachel Brand's Reviews > Hidden Wives

Hidden Wives by Claire Avery
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Aug 20, 12

bookshelves: library, mormonism, contemporary, 2012
Read from August 19 to 20, 2012

Polygamy both fascinates and disturbs me. My first real insight into the polygamous lifestyle was through the TLC TV show, Sister Wives, which apparently portrays four grown women who are content to share one husband between them. As much as the idea of sharing my husband with anyone disgusts me, I felt rather conflicted while I watched this television show. If these are consenting adults and they really feel so strongly about polygamy, who are they hurting with their actions? This is an entirely different situation from the lifestyle presented in "Hidden Wives", in which girls as young as thirteen are forced into arranged marriages, often with close relatives.

"Hidden Wives" gripped me from the start, and I ploughed through most of the book in just a couple of hours. The more disturbing Sara and Rachel's lives got, the more I wanted to keep reading, in the hope that they could escape from the horrible futures they were fated to live in their polygamous community. Even though I never felt like I completely connected to either of the principal characters, the author painted the community in such vivid colours that it was hard not to care about the girls' fates.

If there's one flaw that's present in the book right from the start, it's Rachel's beauty. I struggled with the idea that her beauty alone - she wasn't the kind of girl who flirted, even accidentally - could inflame the lusts of so many men, including her own relatives. Perhaps the inbreeding in their community means that few women are born without physical abnormalities, which made Rachel seem so especially beautiful, but this is the only explanation I can come up with.

My library had this book shelved in the "Thriller" section, and while it isn't a Thriller in the traditional sense, there is a fair amount of suspense in this book, particularly when Rachel's future husband is announced and Sara and Luke start conspiring to get themselves out of the community before it's too late. The pace of the first two-thirds of the novel is pretty heated, but it seemed to peter out after Sara and Rachel had escaped. The girls drove around for a while, trying to figure out where to settle, before ultimately being forced to live in LA and find jobs and accommodation. Some of the scenes at this point in the novel didn't seem entirely realistic, such as them visiting Las Vegas for what seemed like all of ten minutes, before being shocked by the prostitutes and deciding to go to LA instead. Then when they're in LA, Sara gets a job in a library far too easily considering that she's a homeless fifteen-year-old. I won't spoil the end of the book too much, but the fact that they quickly find a loving home and make serious decisions about their futures and educations didn't sit right with me. It all felt too "happily ever after". I didn't totally buy Rachel's personality turnaround, and Sara's voice was lacking from the latter stages of the novel.

I'm really torn on how to rate this book. It was incredibly compelling and impossible to put down for the first two-thirds, and the polygamous community was painted so well that it seemed almost real. Claire Avery made me care about her characters, despite their serious flaws, and I was pleased in the end that they were able to get justice over the wrongs their father had committed. But the last third of the book fell a bit flat for me. I'd expected this book to have a vaguely optimistic ending, with hints of a possibly happy future for Rachel and Sara. Instead, everything seemed to be neatly tied up and the future seemed unrealistically positive for the sisters, considering all the grief they'd had to wade through with their abusive upbringing. The end of the book jumped around a lot, so it was hard to tell how much time had passed between leaving their family and the end of the novel, but it didn't seem long enough, considering how much the girls had changed and adapted to life in the real world.

Most of the time, I appreciate happy endings. If I'm reading a romance novel, I expect one. But although "Hidden Wives" had a romantic element to it, the seriousness of the subject (polygamy, forced under-age marriages, abuse, incest) made the ending feel forced and unnatural. I felt a bit cheated by the last third of the book, considering how consistently compelling and engaging the rest of the book was. The way the last third jumped from place to place and rushed through Rachel and Sara adjusting to normal life didn't sit right with the tone of the rest of the book. Although they deal with the trauma of Rachel's father abusing her, she seems to get over this far too fast.

I'd love to give this book 4* because of how compelling and engaging it is, at least for the first two-thirds of the book, but the last third really lets it down, so I'm going to have to give "Hidden Wives " 3.5*. I think it had some real potential, but lost its way in trying to wrap up all the lose ends and give its characters a happy ending. It's not that I don't think that happy endings are possible to victims of such a society as the one depicted in this book, it's just that I think it can take years, maybe even decades, before such people are able to truly move on with their lives, especially those who have had experiences as traumatic as Rachel's.
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Reading Progress

08/20/2012 page 100
30.0%

Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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message 1: by Beth (new) - added it

Beth This one sounds really interesting!


Rachel Brand It was! Although I was a bit disappointed by the ending, I really could not put this book down. I now need to attend to my poor laundry, as I've left it in the washing machine for far too long as I wanted to finish this book!


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