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Too Many Wives . . . Too Many Kids

  • Mar 30, 2009
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I can honestly say I've never read anything quite like the life story of Irene Spencer in her memoir Shattered Dreams: My Life as a Polygamist's Wife. Stories like this are seldom told. Either the subject doesn't live to tell the tale, or more specifically, her lack of formal education, interaction with the outside world OR her religion would forbid it.

My first thought upon finishing this long story of poverty, grief and heartache was, thank GOD she escaped this lifestyle and found a way to help the world to better understand plural marriage. To most of us, it's a mystery. In spite of the current HBO television drama "Big Love," which focuses on a polygamist family functioning in the outside world and fundamentalists living in a Utah colony, and last summer's news story about the raid of a Texas colony practicing polygamy, I don't think many outside of the Mormon church know much about the practice or the history of it.

The author lays it all bare and particularly helps the reader understand the rationalizations and belief system behind the practice of polygamy. From growing up in a polygamist household and her struggle through the decision making process of staying faithful to her religion, she becomes the second wife of a man named Verlan LeBaron. What follows is a life of constant pregnancies, constant moving and constant disappointment.

Spencer's writing style is simple and charming. You can't help but like her and stay with her through page after page of her complaints and heartbreaks. Above all else, it's a fascinating story. I found myself constantly turning to the center photo spread to help keep track of what ultimately became a family of ten wives and over forty children. As I said, it's amazing she lived to tell the tale.

It's one of those books that will remind you how important it is to count your blessings, and I recommend it for those who enjoy reading memoirs of unique characters.

Shattered Dreams: My Life as a Polygamist's Wife

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April 06, 2009
This sounds like a memoir that will stay with the reader long after the final page is turned.
March 31, 2009
It's nice to see another perspective on polygamy besides the one shown in Big Love (though I do love that show!). This looks like a fascinating read.
March 31, 2009
I like watching Big Love too, and find it to be a very well written show. Meanwhile, I didn't choose to read this book--it was a book club selection--but I'm glad I read it. There were many references to Mormon fundamentalism and the practice of polygamy that were familiar from having watched Big Love. The perspective of the author was FAR less romantic than those beautiful television stars (!) Thanks for your comment. Michele
About the reviewer
Michele VanOrt Cozzens ()
Ranked #260
I am the mother of two daughters--a tween and a teen. Need I say more about my current state of mind?
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Memoir, Polygamy, Plural Marriage


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