Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Shattered Dreams, My Life as a Polygamist's Wife

By Irene Spencer
Imagine marrying your sister’s husband while your sister is not only living, but still married to him. Now imagine that through the years, your husband would take an additional eight wives and father a total of 58 children. In her book, Shattered Dreams, My Life as a Polygamist’s Wife, Irene Spencer spins a tale so foreign that it would be unbelievable if one was not assured this was her true life’s story.
The story opens with a young Irene running off to be with her new husband, Verlan LeBaron, and his first wife, Charlotte. The product of four generations of polygamists or “Fundamentalists,” Irene has been brought up with the concept of the Principle, or polygamy, instilled in her. The Principle taught that men were to have as many wives and children as possible. At the conclusion of their lives, they would reap eternal benefits and rewards based on their adherence to the Principle. “Polygamy was all about future glory.”

Giving up the love of a man who loved her desperately in order to follow the Principle, Irene embarks on a life far from what she had envisioned. She shares her first home, consisting of two bedrooms and a primitive kitchen, with her husband, his first wife, and their child. Within a matter of a couple of years, a third wife joins them.
Through the next several years, Irene endures countless moves while fighting poverty, loneliness and depression. She raises thirteen children of her own, while working communally to help the entire family survive. At one point, she is solely responsible for the care of twenty-four children while her sister-wives and husband work outside the home. Eventually Irene makes the decision to no longer share the husband that she loved, telling him “I was a beautiful green plant when you married me, but you neglected me! All I ever wanted, all I ever asked was to be watered with your love.…I’ve been threatened with Hell for so many years, I’m not afraid anymore. No one can send me to Hell, because I’m already there.” Taking her small children with her, Irene leaves Verlan for three years before eventually returning to him.
This is a heart-wrenching tale. Spencer relays her story so vividly that her readers can feel her frustration and her loneliness. Her despair is evident as she asked again and again to give her husband yet another wife, each of whom will take her husband further and further away emotionally.
Shattered Dreams... is an excellent book. The story would have been stronger if the epilogue had been left out, however it is interesting to read what becomes of Irene and her children after the death of Verlan. Spencer’s motivation behind the writing of this book was to “tell it like it is.” In this book she did exactly what she set out to do in a very thought-provoking manner.

This review was submitted by Kristin Pace. Kristin is a wife and mother and founder of The Book-Trotter.  She wrote her first review 20 years ago and has been reading and loving books ever since.

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