by Irene Spencer
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Shattered Dreams / 978-1-59995-158-4
It feels wrong somehow to rate an honest, heart-felt memoir with a lackluster rating because I found the book to be genuinely frustrating, and yet here I am. I picked up "Shattered Dreams" in the wake of "Escape" and "Stolen Innocence", expecting another heart-breaking tale of a woman caught in a painful polygamist marriage, struggling to break free, but it turns out that "Shattered Dreams" only encompasses half of this formula - although Irene Spencer *is* miserable in her marriage, this memoir is *not* a story of escape.
In some ways, the author's life is less painful than some of the other women caught in fundamentalist polygamy - her husband is not physically abusive, and does not violently force himself sexually on his wives. And yet, it is in this manner that "Shattered Dreams" really drives home just how broken the FLDS marriage concept really is: polygamy doesn't work for Irene and Verlan not because they are bad *people*, but because the *concept* is fundamentally broken. Verlan cannot adequately divide his wages, emotional attention, and physical ministrations amongst his many wives in such a way as to satisfy any of them, and thus everyone is thoroughly miserable.
However, the aspects that make this memoir a shattering blow against FLDS plural marriage also make it painfully hard for the reader to slog through. Since there is no escape to follow, no build-up and catharsis for the reader, all we get is the long, hard, painful years of Irene's marriage, and the constant emotional and verbal abuse that the marriage participants heap upon each other. The author honestly details her little abuses of the other wives as her only outlet for her frustrations, and delights in the little torments she dishes out. And while the reader will sympathize with the author time and again when her husband thoughtlessly and carelessly wounds her, these wrongs do not diminish the fact that the author frequently seems less interested in leaving her husband (if only to protect her children from being coerced into the same lifestyle) than in screaming at him, as well as the women he courts and marries.
It is important to note that I don't blame the author for her actions in the least - having been sheltered from the world, indoctrinated into this lifestyle, and married at a very young and confused age, I don't doubt that her reactions are the only sensible and real. I *do* however have to admit that it made my journey through the book slow and painful, and that in the end I was glad that she chose to share her story, but I was more glad to be done with it. I can't help but feel that makes me a bad person somehow, but there it is.
~ Ana Mardoll
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