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Lonely Polygamist > Question #2

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message 1: by Meghan (new)

Meghan | 115 comments Do you think the author gave a realistic portrayal of what a polygamist family dynamic would be like?

message 2: by Carol (new)

Carol  Jones-Campbell (cajonesdoa) | 640 comments Mod
As stated earlier, I come from a polygamist family. They however were long gone before I came along. Many years ago, I visited with my grandmother about it, as she was the only one left that knew the "other woman."
They called her Auntie, but the original family never really felt close to the new wife and soon to be family. Grandma said that they tolerated each other but were never close. Udall made the sister wives a lot closer than ours was in real life. I have friends here in Albuquerque that come from polygamist families too. One had four wives, one had three wives, and it's interesting to hear the different ways they let it work.

message 3: by Meghan (new)

Meghan | 115 comments Yes I do think it was accurate in a sense. Chaotic, power struggles, jealousy, not enough time or resources to go around, following ones relief system at any cost even when you question it. This is not to say these same issues don't arise in "normal" families....but in a large polygamist one it seems amplified and thus the consequences that much more impactful.

message 4: by Ashley (new)

Ashley | 384 comments Mod
Like non-polygamist families, I suspect there is a massive range in how family dynamics in polygamist households work themselves out. That said, I can't imagine a family where wives SHARE one husband, resources are limited, and a zillion kids are running around without power struggles, competition, desperation on the kids' parts for some attention, and so on. My instinct is that Udall--perhaps in his quest to be nonjudgmental--has painted polygamy a lot rosier than it is in most circumstances. Young girls getting forced into marriages, sexual exploitation (yes, this happens in non-polygamist circumstances too), the cult-like spearation of many polygamists from the rest of world, and so on are very serious aspects of a lot of polygamist compounds that Udall totally overlooked.

message 5: by Lauren (new)

Lauren | 251 comments Given that even other book I've read about Mormon polygamy dealt with the cults, I actually liked that the book tackled a less extreme position. At the same time, even without the gross injustices, I thought a lot of the book condemned polygamy and its results in a subtle way. Rusty's sections are a pretty damning portrait of polygamy. He's a kid who wants some attention and love. That's it. Look at Faye: her Mom wants more children, but she's dismissive of the one she has. How many of the other children in the Richards family are similarly neglected? Look at June and Trish, the adult survivors of polygamy. In a lot of ways, they seem to be fully functioning adults, but they both bear scars of that childhood experience. June's alone on the desert building a bunker, and Trish is married to a worthless moron for what I took to be extreme dependency issues.

At times during the book, I thought Mr. Udall was getting closed to a commentary about how, despite the teachings of the Principle (the husband is the center and head of the family), the husband is really the most disposable part of the polygamist family. That without him, the wives and children could (and in a way, do) function perfectly fine. Mr. Udall got close to that point, but I think he in someways sabotaged it towards the end. Did anyone have a similar reaction to the book? Did Mr. Udall comment on polygamy in a subversive way?

message 6: by Meghan (new)

Meghan | 115 comments I love that perspective that the "man" of the family actually ends up being the most disposable as the women and children build their own society without him being part as he is stretched to thin too true...and yes his commentary is subversive but i think his commentary is also about family in general not just polygamist families...

message 7: by Alisha (new)

Alisha Rivera | 145 comments I felt like this was a fairy accurate picture of what a polygamist family could be. I appreciated that Udall didn't incorporate the abusive history of polygamy into the forefront of the story. I think that would have been the easy way to go about telling the story. I don't deny that the abuse exists, but I also don't feel that it happens in every polygamist situation, and there are many other stories to tell.

I think a lot of the family dynamics here are due to Golden, and his ever present absence in the family. Even when he is home he is emotionally and spiritually absent. He sleeps on the couch or in his truck. He sets arbitrary rules (no running the track) that aren't followed through for more than a day or too. No one in the family respects him as head of household, which leaves a very confused dynamic. The wives are taught to follow him as leader, and are left scrambling when their leader doesn't lead. This family has already fallen apart before the book even starts, and Golden doesn't recognize it until after Rusty's accident. Even then, when he tries to take control again, he is too weak of a man to rebuild.

As I said, this is what a polygamist family dynamic could be- when the head of the family is as weak a person as Golden, and there is no leadership, absolutely will the family function in chaos and collapse.

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