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A psychological novel of plural marriage in the story of Mormonism as the time when the United States authorities were investigating polygamy and applying violent measures to uproot it. Linnea was a second wife, and through her emotional upheavals, the problems inherent in the system are vividly portrayed. Sigrid, Olaf's first wife, is seen only through Linnea's eyes, her grudging recognition of the fact that Sigrid had accepted the situation, which she could have made unbearable, but the uncontrollable jealousy when she learns that Olaf has given Sigrid something she, the mother of four of his children, lacks. Olaf, a mild little man, tries to keep the situation under control, but his terror of a second jail sentence impels him to move Linnea and her children to the country. This part of the story -- the relationship between families, many of them Mormon households, striving to meet the same threat -- the women seeing the husbands when they dare come -- the doubling up of the households (Linnea and her four children shared a two-room adobe with another woman and her two children) -- the give and take, visiting back and forth, generous sharing of their little, gives a warm and revealing picture of a unique way of life. There were complications within complications, and the story is told through episodes, flash pictures, an understanding analysis of the conflicts, the contradictions, the occasional rejections and rebellions. Linnea escapes -- into a worse situation; she accepts Olaf again -- and again rejects him. And at the end, with the legal status somewhat clarified, the reader feels that the pattern will continue to repeat itself endlessly. Linnea emerges as a living personality; some of the other characters are shadowy; but the portrait of a people is rounded out with insight that, while not always sympathetic, is fair and challenging. An unusual story, slow getting under way, but worth reading.

Pub Date: Nov. 7th, 1949
Publisher: Houghton, Mifflin