Shattered Dreams: My Life as a Polygamist’s Wife (Review)

January 6, 2015

Book cover for "Shattered Dreams" by Irene Spencer.Title: Shattered Dreams: My Life as a Polygamist’s Wife

Author: Irene Spencer

Narrator: Laural Merlington

Publication Year: 2007

Pages: 432 (audio length: 14 hours 10 minutes)

Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoir

Source: Audiobook version purchased from Audible.com

From the cover:

Irene Spencer did as she felt God commanded in becoming the second wife to her brother-in-law Verlan LeBaron. When the government raided their community – the Mormon village of Short Creek, Arizona – seeking to enforce the penalties for practicing polygamy, Irene and her family fled to Verlan’s family ranch in Mexico. Here they lived in squalor and desolate conditions with Verlan’s six brothers, one sister, and numerous wives and children. This appalling and astonishing tale has captured the attention of readers around the world. Irene’s inspirational story reveals how far religion can be stretched and abused and how one woman and her children found their way out, into truth and redemption.

Listening to this book was painful.

Not because it was poorly written, or because the narration was bad. Not at all. It was painful because I just wanted to shake the author and everyone around her throughout pretty much the entire story. It was like watching a disaster happen and not being able to stop it.

Shattered Dreams is a great book, telling a difficult story. Irene is not the only person to have gone through the things she talks about in the book. I think it’s important for other people to read memoirs like hers and truly understand what has happened to them and, in some cases, is still happening to people in our society. I’m not saying that it’s common or specific to one religion or culture or another, but I think it’s important that we pay attention to these kinds of stories.

Reading this book was difficult, especially the parts about living in poverty, health issues, and the death of children. But it was also very difficult for me to hear about the way Irene and the other wives are treated, maybe because I feel personally like multiple marriages can work if people respect each other, and it’s so obviously not the way things were done in this community.

If you’re interested in learning about the experiences of women living in polygamous marriages, especially in the context of America and Mexico in the mid-1900s, Shattered Dreams is the book for you. It’s hard and distressing to read, but really enlightening.

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