Thursday, May 19, 2011

Review: Hidden Wives by Claire Avery

Reviewed by Ingrid

Published: 2010

It's about: Rachel and Sara are half sisters and best friends. Their father, Abraham, is abusive, self-serving, and a polygamist. Rachel and Sara's mothers are sister-wives. As the two girls have just turned 15, they meet with Prophet Silver to be placed - that is, to be assigned to be married to much older men. Sara is assigned to her father's brother, Uncle Walter. Rachel, because she is beautiful, has had 16 different men in the community claim they had a vision that they were to marry her. When Rachel's father finds out, he beats her because he assumes she is willingly tempting these men to lust after her. As the story goes on, Rachel suffers because of her innocence and beauty, though she still clings to her belief that polygamy is ordained of God. Sara as well as Rachel's love interest, Luke (an outsider who recently moved into the community) do everything they can to convince Rachel to leave with them.

Hidden Wives was written by two sisters who write under the pen-name Claire Avery. They were raised in a fundamentalist Catholic community and were interested in writing a story of two sisters in another extreme religion.

I thought: First of all, thank you to Jenna from Read, Write, and Live, a fellow book blogger who sent me Hidden Wives as a part of a Secret Santa event back in December! I've been excited to read this book ever since, and now I finally had time! Unfortunately, this book didn't quite live up to my expectations. The characters were either completely good or completely bad. Besides Rachel's internal struggle between her deep-set beliefs and her intuition, the characters weren't very complex or developed.  This book present a very black-and-white view of polygamy, fastening on all the shocking aspects that the authors knew would be particularly disturbing to readers. Also, the writing wasn't very strong - I laughed out loud at sentences like this: "Shock charged along her veins,""Rachel was chilled to the core," and ultra sentimental moments like when Rachel's father "cuffs" her wrists as she's trying to wipe away her tears right before he's going to beat her. The story was interesting and moved quickly, but everything tied up in much too neat of a little bow at the end that was too predictable.

Obviously the two sisters who wrote this book did extensive research. Their depiction of abuse and trauma was also well researched and rather convincing, though at times a little melodramatic. Like I said, the story kept me interested, but ultimately I thought that this book took a shallow approach to a complex and potentially fascinating subject. The Lonely Polygamist, one of my favorite reads last summer, was much better.

Verdict: In between.

Reading Recommendations: Read this book only if you are looking for a thrilling story.

Warnings: Instances of rape, incest, suicide, and every other disturbing thing you could imagine happening in a polygamist community.

Favorite excerpts:

   As Sara steered the cart toward aisle #12, marked BABY ITEMS, her eyes immediately landed on the books. She hadn't seen books, other than religious ones, since the start of the summer. Delicious words flowed in front of her eyes. She wanted to devoir them, wrap her arms around the entire selection and get lost. If only the town had a library. If only she was still a student at the real high school. She picked up a book and turned it over in her hands.
   What if she "borrowed" it?
   She could return her borrowed book on the next diaper excursion. Was that a sin? Maybe Jesus would understand. He was a scholar himself. Sara recalled the story about His three-day disappearance to the temple where He bandied scripture with the most educated of men. His mother was frantic with worry, but the Savior was lost to intellectual discussion. If Christ could make such a mistake, surely He would understand her thirst for literature.
   Besides, she would only be borrowing.

What I'm reading next: The Final Frontiersman by James Campbell