What if the man you loved told you God wanted him to take another wife? What if that woman was your best friend?
Set in the heart of the earliest days of a new nineteenth-century sect known as the Saints, The Sister Wife is a riveting account of two women forced into a practice they don’t understand, bound by their devotion to Prophet Joseph Smith.
When Mary Rose marries Gabriel, neither of them could foresee how quickly the community would turn to the practice of plural marriage. Devastated when Gabe is faced with an order from the Prophet to marry her best friend, Bronwyn, Mary Rose tries to have the faith to carry through with the marriage.
But can she really be married to the same man as her very best friend? Can Mary Rose and Bronwyn face betraying both their husband and their God to do what they feel is right?
*I really enjoyed this book for a few different reasons. One, I find that early mormonism and the practice of polygamy is fascinating (not in a good way, more in a “How could anyone do that?” way). I really liked the main character Mary Rose, and the author does a good job of capturing her confusion and heartbreak. While I definitely recommend the book, I do have to say that I found the first few chapters a little slow paced. It seemed to take a while before the story really took off. I stayed with it because I wanted to get deeper in the story, but I felt like the beginning could have been a little tighter.
Also, while it was a gripping, heart-wrenching story, I came away with mixed feelings. Not because of the plot or the author’s style of writing–but polygamy in itself is so hard to understand. And being a woman myself, I just have such a hard time reading about women who had to endure that (and still do in some places!) because the men decided it was what God wanted. It just seems so obvious that the men are doing it for selfish, ungodly reasons, and that women suffer the most from it.
You can see in the story that Gabriel, Mary’s husband, pushes against the whole idea at first. He wants to be faithful to Mary Rose, but is torn between her feelings and what he thinks God has ordered him to do. The part that made me so frustrated was how Gabriel’s resolve weakens–as he grows closer to Bronwyn and wants to be with her. Polygamy is very much a male-dominated practice. Men have many wives, but the wives can never take another lover–that would be adultery! You could see toward the end of the book that Gabriel’s first love was going to enter the picture and probably become his wife. While Mary Rose is a strong character, and you can see her strength even though she stays with Gabriel–I found myself really upset over Gabriel. It’s impossible to like a man who’s making decisions only based on what he wants, not what is right. In the sense that I ended up having strong feelings of dislike for Gabriel, I didn’t feel satisfied by the book’s ending because I have so much dislike for some of the main charcters. I haven’t decided if I will continue reading the series. Seeing these women continue to go along with something so awful, and seeing Gabriel become more and more selfish–it’s hard to imagine where the satisfying ending will come from.
However, overall, it’s a very well-written novel that stirs a lot of emotion (for me, that wasn’t such a good thing since the main emotions were frustration and annoyance). But for anyone interested in this fascinating time in American history, or in polygamy for that matter, this is a good story.