I admit that I wanted to read this badly enough that I put a hold request in for it. It came in yesterday. I finished it this morning. Quick read for sure. I’ve never seen a full episode of the show, I just find this sort of thing compelling.
And it WAS compelling, especially the simplicity of it, though more than anything it was just sad. It was the book equivalent of drinks with a girlfriend who is dating somebody who clearly makes her unhappy, which you can tell because she is drinking way faster than normal and also every other anecdote is about her significant other is not a nice one (and everything reminds her of another of those anecdotes), but then between drinks she keeps saying things like, “but I feel like at the end of the day, our love is just so strong” or “but then on the other hand, when I hear him on the phone with his sister, it reminds me that he’s a good guy.”
(Not to judge. I’ve been that girl. That’s how I know her so well. And sometimes, at the end of the day, love is strong and that does pull you through. But stay with me here.)
Except actually, it was like FOUR friends doing that to you all at once, and I was on a train without a bar car, so there was no wine involved.
I really want to be happy for these ladies (and their children), and there are points in the book where they convinced me that they are truly happy with their choices, and that their life was, really, a choice. (There is a twinge of the feminism in the air with this book, choosing my choice style. Plus with all the group courting of new wives.) And also to me, someone thinking a lot about the various combinations of being a mom while having a career, there is something appealing about the idea of having other women in your life and house all the time who are morally obligated to help you keep it together. That seems nice.
But ultimately over half of this book is just paragraphs and paragraphs devoted to re-hashing two decades of petty and not-so-petty disagreements; to make matters worse, the four sister-wives tell their stories in wife-order over a repeating cycle of chapters, so that sometimes you hear the same disagreements four times from four perspectives. It’s like group-marital-counseling Rashomon.
As a work of fiction it might be fascinating. As a memoir, it’s just depressing, especially as the chapters are often ended with sentences like “Of all the examples of plural families I’ve seen, ours is truly the best” and “I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.” (151, 111). By the standards of show-don’t-tell, it is hard to believe any of it by the time they end the chapter. Which made me sad. But I would recommend this anyway.