Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Shattered Dreams by Irene Spencer

Shattered Dreams: My Life as a Polygamist's Wife, Irene Spencer. New York: Hachette Book Group, 2007. e-book, 380 pps.

     Irene Spencer grew up in a fundamentalist Mormon household. Although the official LDS Church has reneged on the practice of polygamy, the FLDS folks have not. One well-known settlement is in Short Creek which straddles the border of Colorado and Arizona. Several not-as-known settlements remain in Mexico, where the authorities are not as intent on prosecution of plural marriages as the United States is at present.

     As a teen, Irene Spencer found true love but she turned her back on him in favor of the Principle [of Celestial Marriage; and thus of plural marriage here on earth]. She became second wife to her half-sister's first husband. [Sisters, half-sisters, and step-sisters may share a husband]. Her husband's household quickly moved to Mexico to what was supposed to be a ranch but proved to be a hovel of rat-infested huts. 

     Irene Spencer was an obedient wife prone to meltdowns and tantrums whenever her husband married again. He wanted at least seven wives. Adding insult to injury, she was called upon several times to court the extra wives and/or give them to her husband in the marriage ceremonies. She had many babies and put aside her own dreams and health in order to please her god.

sapphoq reviews says: Irene Spencer has come out on the other side of a chaotic existence. She is now happily married to a monogamous husband and has converted to born again christian status. She is certain to have more freedom as such in spite of a belief in fundamentalist biblical interpretations.
     I found Shattered Dreams to be a studied glimpse into the reality behind sister-wives. Jealousy, poverty, and a subservient posture towards men and whoever declares himself to be god's next prophet is a recipe for personal disaster. I learned bits about plural marriages that I had been previously unaware of. Recommended to those readers who like religious-type memoirs and perhaps to sociology students.
     I wish Irene Spencer well and I do hope that she continues in her classes for creative writing and in her speaking engagements.


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