Just as A Mormon Motheris 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.
I have been derelict with my 2008 book reviews and I've read three books since the beginning of the year - all good books.
This memoir written by the Mormon wife of a polygamist is very informative and dispels some of the stereotypes about polygamous men. These men don't necessarily enjoy a harem-like atmosphere with women feeding them grapes and always available. The man, Verlan, whom Irene Spencer (author) marries is a hard-working man who genuinely believes that having multiple wives and procreating is the key to achieving godhood in heaven. He is also a sexual purist, uncomfortable with sex other than for procreation purposes; poor Irene has to beg him for sex. Verlan ends up with ten wives, three of them who leave him. They all live in dire poverty where flour sacks are recycled as clothes and where soap is a luxury. The women work just as hard as Verlan for their livelihood in Mexico. They moved to Mexico because of the anti-polygamist laws in the U.S. Verlan frequently returns to the states for long periods to find jobs and money. He is a good, honest man, but for the polygamy, but his heart is in the right place with that one - his purpose in having multiple wives is spiritual, and not for sexual variety and satiation.
It is interesting reading this woman's difficult experience with polygamy. She recounts all the jealousies which the wives experience, especially when a new one was added to the fold. She details all of the material deprivations. She is a spunky woman who frequently asserts herself in front of her husband. However, ultimately, she does obey him.
Amazingly, she ends up having THIRTEEN children!! That's THIRTEEN children! After 35 years of marriage with Verlan, he passes away and Irene remarries Hector Spencer and finally is enjoying the fruits of a monogamous relationship.