SISTER WIVES by Cleo Jones


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A young woman struggles for liberation from the mid-19th-century humiliations and repressions of life as a Salt Lake City Mormon--in a harsh, accusatory, but feverishly ineffectual historical novel. The Spensers--weak father Frank, fragile mother Ruth, delicate Connie, rugged Callie--join the trek of Latter Day Saints from a rendezvous in Iowa City to the Promised Land of Utah Territory; but 67 members of the party, including Frank and Ruth, perish (unnecessarily) in the cold and snow. So, along with widow Ingrid, the Spenser girls will arrive unprotected in Salt Lake City: Callie will be bound to Joseph A. Young, son of the Prophet, as his first ""plural"" wife; young Elder Harley Crick--huge, gentle, attractive--wins Connie as his second wife, to bear the sons that wife #1 Inez hasn't; and he charitably takes in poor, mutilated Ingrid too. But the household, under Inez's tyrannical rule, is a miserable one. Meanwhile, Callie--alternately guilty and rebellious--tries to do the best for her soul and her sister's family, begins to note injustices, cruelties, and hypocrisies. (She even sounds off at Brigham Young at one point--and is forced to repent.) She also learns, from a child survivor of a terrible massacre, that the Saints are capable of mass murder. So Callie escapes to Virginia City, falling in love with ""Gentleman"" Paul Greydanis, sometime bandit and spy for the North as the Civil War heats up. And eventually, after pregnancy, more marriages, and renewed bondage in Salt Lake City, Callie will vow that her daughter Bree will never be a plural wife: ""From that instant, Brigham Young, the Priesthood. . . and polygamy, had a fierce and secret enemy."" A grimly intent--but hardly comprehensive--indictment of the Prophet's reign; overwrought and over-strewn with disasters.

Pub Date: Jan. 11th, 1983
Publisher: St. Martin's