I've become a polygamy voyeur and I can't help myself.
It all started with "Big Love." This series on HBO, told the stories of a modern day polygamist and his family. The story, fictionalized of course, showed the inner workings of how a man with three "sister wives" managed their personal and professional lives. How they blended their homes and their children. How they shared their time together as a family and how each wife got to spend time with their husband.
It was and is entertaining. Sometimes very far fetched. But always, intriguing. The hardest part for me was really wrapping my head around the idea of sharing your spouse with someone. Marriage is hard enough with one man and one woman, I can't imagine factoring in another person or persons into the mix.
Raising kids is challenging. Can you imagine raising your own and someone else's? Where is the divide in parenting? Is there a divide? Could you honestly love these "other" children of your husband and sister wife as much as your own? It would have to be different. It's only human to think that way.
Next, came "The 19th Wife," by David Ebershoff. I happened upon this book, actually in the audio section at my local library. Already interested in the "Big Love" phenomenon, I wanted to learn a little more. What was especially intriguing about this novel, is that it was told from two different perspectives and times in history.
The first story, was a semi-fictionalized historical perspective of how the Mormon religion and polygamy came into practice. It starts with it's roots in the East and tells the tale of Joseph Smith and his followers as they move West and build their church in Utah. This story is told from the viewpoint of Anne Eliza Smith, his "19th" wife. It tells how Anne came to be married to Joseph Smith and ultimately divorces and exposes the polygamist lifestyle and eventually helps plural marriages become illegal through an act of congress.
The second part of the story is told from a modern day character, a child of plural marriage, who is is shunned and turned out by his own family. He returns to his hometown to help his mother, who is being accused of the murder of her husband. We learn how these polygamist of today, have split from mainstream Mormonism and have created their version of the religion, still following Joseph Smith's beliefs.
These two stories, although very different, they eventually wind themselves together in a very memorable tale.
Recently, Lifetime television, made a movie from this book. It is in a word, disappointing. I'm sure it's difficult, to take a book of this magnitude and turn it into a 2 hour made for tv movie. But, in my opinion, if you have to make so many changes in order for it to fit your formula, you shouldn't even try. They changed some of the most elemental facts of the book and minimized the historical portion so much, that I feel you lose the entire spirit of the book.
If you happened to see the movie, and haven't read the book, don't judge the book by it. Do yourself a favor and read the book, you won't be disappointed. If you've read the book and haven't seen the movie yet, don't bother. Usually, I'm pretty happy with Lifetime's making of novels into movies, this time however; they missed the mark.
Currently, I'm reading (listening to...) "The Lonely Polygamist," by Brady Udall. The title drew me in- how could a polygamist be lonely? Being the voyeur that I've become on this subject matter, I was sucked in immediately. This book was published earlier this year. I hadn't seen it the book stores, nor had I read about it anywhere. If this is new to you too- let me just tell you- read this book. Regardless, of you're feelings about polygamy, you will want to read this tale of Golden Richards and his four wives and twenty-eight children.
We learn about this family through the eyes of it's father/husband, Golden, his fourth wife, Trish and one of his son's, Rusty. Golden, is a man that has let life happen to him. He really hasn't made any conscience decisions regarding his life ever. He just lets his life unfold. He is in the midst of a mid-life crisis, when he meets another woman, whom he chooses to fall in love with and have an affair.
Trish tells us of her life as the fourth wife. Her struggles to find her place in the family as a mother and a wife. Her struggles to have children. Her struggles in deciding if this truly is the life meant for her.
Finally, Rusty. Rusty is for me the most engaging, sweet, misguided soul of the bunch. As the saying goes, "All God's children want to be loved." Rusty too, struggles to understand why he was put in this family. Clearly, different, rebellious and craving to be a normal kid, he does everything he can to upset the balance of power and control in the household.
The story is compelling, chaotic, funny and deeply upsetting. It makes you question the wisdom of this plural lifestyle for the sake of religious purposes. What's the true motivation? How is anyone better off being raised in this environment. Is this an excuse to be selfish or a chance to hide among many?
Starting tonight, TLC has a new show debuting called, "Sister's Wives." This is a "reality show" look at plural marriages focusing in on a family in, where else, but Utah? (Kind of like "Jon & Kate, Plus 8" but for the polygamy set...) I've watched a few clips on the TLC website and already, I'm feeling the pull to check in on this family.
So, what does this say about me? My draw to this subject matter? Beloved has started asking questions. (Do I want a sister wife?) Seriously, I'm just so intrigued. It's like the train wreck you can't help taking a look at as you drive by. What are your feelings on polygamy? Clearly, I'm opposed. However, I am interested on many levels. Purely, from an emotional human thinking side, I don't get it. Will you be checking out the new show on TLC? Have you read "The 19th Wife," or "The Lonely Polygamist?"
It's been a while, share with me people, I'd love to know your thoughts!