Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Two Looks at Polygamy

I read both of these books within a month of each other, and so it's very hard not to compare them. They were both fantastically good, but if I had to sum each on up in one word, the first book would be "gripping" and the second "compelling."

The Chosen One Carol Lynch Williams

Kyra lives with her family in a polygamist religious compound. The current prophet has isolated the community and banned all reading except for the Bible. Kyra has been chosen, meaning that she, at age 13, will marry her uncle, age 60. She will be his 7th wife.

Kyra knows she has sinned. She has snuck out at night to kiss a boy and hold his hand. Even worse, she sneaks out during the day to visit the book mobile.

I am not a huge fan of books where reading opens a whole new world to a character and the power of books blah blah blah. You tend to be preaching to the choir. At worst, it's just authors talking about how important they are to the world.

This isn't like that. Kyra likes her books, but they serve as her personal, private rebellion. It's also not the main plot line, but the bookmobile (and the fact it's mobile) is a very important device in the plot. If that makes any sense.

When Kyra is promised to her uncle, she is torn--torn between her desire to run, to flee and her family--running means never seeing them again, it means her mothers might be reassigned to other men, men who are not as nice as her father is.

William's language is immediate, Kyra's thoughts are short, concise, almost choppy, which leads the tension and the drama as she decides what to do.

Powerful, amazing stuff.

Sister Wife Shelley Hrdlitschka

Unity is a fundamentalist religious community in British Columbia and the home of three very different girls. Celeste has impure thoughts and has feelings for a boy in her community, but she it is almost time for her to be assigned to a husband. Nanette, her younger sister, is pure and pious and cannot wait to be assigned--she feels she is ready to be a wife and a mother. Taviana is from the outside and was living on the streets until someone from Unity found her and brought her in.

After Taviana is kicked out of Unity, Celeste is assigned to the father of the boy she likes and she wants to leave Unity, but she can't figure out how she would be able to leave her family.

The story is told in alternating chapters from the three girls' points of view. The subject matter is compelling enough, but it's a slightly quieter and slower book than The Chosen One. But, I liked the different points of view presented. Celeste's husband, while quite a bit older, is not a bad guy, but a complex character who tries to be kind and gentle and nice. Nanette sees nothing wrong in her lifestyle and can't understand why Celeste doesn't just pray harder to rid herself of such impure thinking. Taviana knows Unity isn't for her, but is grateful for the safe place it gave her when she needed one the most.

I liked this one better, because it was more nuanced and complex. It wasn't as gripping and terrifying, but it had much more meat.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for summing up these books so well! I also enjoyed Sister Wife more than The Chosen One. I think the alternating voices lends a more well-rounded point of view of this sort of life.