May 07, 09
Read in May, 2009, read count: 1
In the final pages of this book the author, Dorothy Solomon, insinuates that she had originally conceived the book as a novel, but her father encouraged her to write it as "biography, based in reality."
The result is a fascinating, but fragmented family odyssey. The book is slow-moving in the beginning, then picks up momentum, only to be bogged down with excessive historical narrative.
Solomon is at her best when she's conveying the complex family dynamics of a 7-wife polygamous family she was raised in and the realities of that life. Her family comes together and scatters apart in response to legal realities (polygamy was outlawed in the US in 1890). She and her siblings experience abuse, starvation, and murder as well as flights to Mexico, as the family attempts to elude US authorities.
Yet, despite the travails, Solomon is deeply attached to her mother and especially her father. She is genuinely fond of her 'other mothers', close to some of her 28 siblings, and is objective about the value of this lifestyle, despite the fact that she choose to leave it behind in adulthood.
One of the last chapters, 'Sister-Wife', demonstrates the approach Solomon might have taken had this been a fictional work. Although at times her writing is needlessly complex (the introduction is really bad), this chapter offers a story that is told clearly and with great depth. It makes me wonder if this book might have been better as a novel.
If polygamy interests you, you'll definitely want to read this. Other books on the subject give a broader background of polygamy itself, but this one explores the relationship dynamics particularly well.