Karen's Reviews > Shattered Dreams: My Life as a Polygamist's Wife

Shattered Dreams by Irene Spencer
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Sep 21, 2007

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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, as her elders told her) to enter a world of poverty and unhappiness. Amazingly, she stuck with the marriage for twenty-five years, produced fourteen children, and "welcomed" nine other wives into her family. She moved dozens of times, all around Mexico, and Nicaragua. Most of her homes had no electricity. Jealousy and misery marked much of the author's life, though she kept her spirits up through a strong sense of humor.

I got angry reading this book, frustrated, and often compeltely horrified. I wanted the author to remove her children from the life she'd given them. Then I'd remind myself that the author was the product of indoctrination. The fact that she left the lifestyle at all says something about her determination.

I recommend the book with a few reservations. It's a great story, but the dialogue often seems unrealistic. This could easily be explained by the fact that the author was trying to recreate conversations she'd had decades ago. Sometimes I wondered about the authenticity of the spirit of those conversations though. I can't say for sure what made me think this except that some of the conversations felt too scripted. The second thing that bugged me about the book was that the author, although obviously happier once she finally left polygamy, traded in one kind of fundamentalism for another. She proudly talks about being a Born Again Christian in the epilogue. She ended the book still talking about God's great gifts in her life, and I wondered why she felt that her Mormon fundamentalist beliefs were all wrong but these new ones were all right.
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