October 06, 2011

His Favorite Wife by Susan Ray Schmidt

*Possible spoilers, but this is non-fiction.*

This was an interesting book. It offered a very different perspective from the other books on polygamy that I'd read.

Susan is a young girl growing up in a polygamous community in Mexico. She is very treasured by her family and when she as a dream at fourteen that reveals to her the identity of her future husband, it is readily accepted by all. So much in fact, that she marries him a year later. The man is Varlan, the brother of the prophet of their sect. He already has five wives, but so charms Susan that she believes it is God's will that she marry him. His brother tries to get her for himself but she eventually sees how insidious he really is and goes with Verlan instead.

The rest of the book deals with her hardships of being a multiple wife and just her struggles in living as well. Verlan is not able to properly care for his large family and often the family lacks food, decent lodging, and good clothes. Not helping this is the fact that a couple babies are born every year adding to the mouths to feed. Susan herself goes on to have 5 before she even reaches her mid-twenties.

This book had an interesting perspective because for the majority of the time Susan liked her religion and being a polygamous wife. Sure she didn't like sharing all the time but when it came down to it she did believe in the lifestyle. It wasn't until a bit later when she had had several kids already that she started to become disillusioned. A lot of that too I think stemmed from the hardships she was living and the poverty.

There is one thing that I kind of wondered about though. The subtitle of the book is Trapped in Polygamy, but really, compared to some of the other stories I've read, Susan was able to get out very easy once she made up her mind to do it. She was delayed by pregnancy a couple times but when she truly wanted out, there were no death threats, no trouble with local law, her husband finally accepted. It was a lot different than some of the women who have tried to escape those types of relationships in the United States. I'm not downplaying her struggles, but it amazes me that being in a different country even it still wasn't that hard for her to get out.

The book does end on a good note with her leaving. She also thoughtfully includes a chapter that lets us know where the rest of the sect is and how they ended up. It is interesting to note that a lot of Verlan's wives ended up leaving. Once again, a fascinating subject and I'm sure I'll be hitting the books to find out more on the topic.

His Favorite Wife: Trapped in Polygamy
Copyright 2006
418 pages plus a photo album

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