A Mormon Mother is the standout memoir of a 19th-century polygamous woman's life, this autobiography offers the compelling voice of a contemporary plural"/>
 

Shattered Dreams: My Life as a Polygamist's Wife

Peter Temple, Author
Peter Temple, Author . Farrar, Straus & Giroux $24.99 (357p) ISBN 978-0-374-11693-4
Reviewed on: 06/25/2007
Release date: 05/01/2007
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Just as A Mormon Mother is the standout memoir of a 19th-century polygamous woman's life, this autobiography offers the compelling voice of a contemporary plural wife's experiences. Daughter of a second wife, Spencer was raised strictly in “the Principle” as it was lived secretly and illegally by fringe communities of Mormon “fundamentalists”—groups that split off from the LDS Church when it abandoned polygamy more than a century ago. In spite of her mother's warnings and the devotion of a boyfriend with monogamist intentions, Spencer followed her religious convictions—that living in polygamy was essential for eternal salvation—and became a second wife herself at the age of 16 in 1953. It's hard to tell which is more devastating in this memoir: the strains of husband-sharing with—ultimately—nine other wives, or the unremitting poverty that came with maintaining so many households and 56 children. Spencer's writing is lively and full of engaging dialogue, and her life is nothing short of astonishing. After 28 years of polygamous marriage, Spencer has lived the last 19 years in monogamy. Her story will be emotional and shocking, but many readers will resonate with the universal question the memoir raises: how to reconcile inherited religious beliefs when they grate against social norms and the deepest desires of the heart. (Aug. 22)

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