IN MY FATHER'S HOUSE by Dorothy Allred Solomon


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Growing up polygamous: a vivid, tormented piece of Mormon-Americana marred, but not fatally, by occasional fits of breathlessness and gush. Solomon was the 28th child (48 in all) by the 4th wife (7 in all--till the conjugal frenzy of his sunset years, when the numbers got confused) of Dr. Rulon Clark Allred, a naturopath and sectarian leader who was gunned down in Salt Lake City by fanatical members of a different Mormon sect on May 10, 1977. That date is one of the few Solomon provides, so her chronology tends to be murky (she was born sometime in the Forties), but such narrative confusion aptly mirrors the years of persecution and flight when Allred, his harem, and brood had to keep one step ahead of the police. (He did 7 months in the Utah state pen in 1945 and had some close calls in the Fifties.) Apart from the traumatic knocks on the door and drives through the night to new towns or states (or even to Mexico), her father's criminal status meant that Solomon had constantly to resort to ""Mormon logic"" (i.e., defensive lies) to shield him and the rest of the family whenever she dealt with ""Gentiles."" Still more difficult, for someone who practically worshipped her patriarchal daddy, were the inevitable tensions and frustrations simmering among the seven wives. Solomon likes to remember the blissful harmony of life with her ""aunts,"" but she can't forget the rigid pecking order or the endless repression that almost drove her mother crazy. The whole story, in fact, has a schizophrenic cast: was Allred an angel or a lunatic? Was ""the Principle"" (polygamy) esoteric wisdom or a hothouse of sexual neurosis? (Solomon herself chose monogamy and a mere two children.) How can a woman with a university education (M.A.) take primitive Mormonism seriously? All this, and the agony (relief?) of her father's bloody end, makes Solomon's prose overheat (""A powerful sense of eternalness returned, and my skin lifted in goosebumps, as I saw his blue eyes again and again. . .""); but her writer's instincts overcome her gaucherie, and the book, for the most part, works. A distinct original.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1984
Publisher: Watts