The abduction of teenager Elizabeth Smart by a fundamentalist Mormon preacher placed a renewed focus on renegade offshoots of the Church of Latter Day Saints and the culture surrounding the religion in the state of Utah (which, like the church, formally opposes polygamous marriage, though state and religious leaders both seem well aware that the practice continues, and they often turn a blind eye toward it). Like Natalie R. Collins's 2003 novel SisterWife
, Dorothy Allred Solomon's Predators, Prey, and Other Kinfolk
couldn't seem more topical, but it is an even more powerful book because it has the weight of truth behind it. "I am the daughter of my father's fourth plural wife, twenty-eight of forty-eight childrena middle kid, you might say," her frank memoir begins, and Solomon (a freelance writer who now lives in a happily monogamous marriage in Park City, Utah) maintains a similarly gripping and poignant tone through the book. Her family's story is a fascinating one: Her father, the physician Rulon Allred, was also a fundamentalist preacher and a closet polygamist who went to great lengths to keep his plural marriages and sprawling family a secret from society at large. In 1977, he was shot to death by assassins from a rival fundamentalist sect, the bloody end to a misguided lifestyle that had already taken a severe emotional toll on many around him. His daughter does not hesitate to expose the violent and sexist behavior that permeates many of these cultish offshoots of the Mormon Church, but she does not reduce the believers to one-dimensional caricatures, either, and in the process of sharing a very personal tale, she often steps back to place it all in the much broader context of religion and society, charting the history of the Mormons and the contradictions between ideals and actions on the part of both church and state. --Jim DeRogatis
From Publishers Weekly
Solomon's work is far from the sometimes maddeningly prosaic crowd of memoirs by people recounting small triumphs and plain glories. As the 28th of 48 children born to a polygamist, Solomon tells her astonishing tale with so much emotional clarity and raw honesty that the Utah dirt she played in seems wedged between the pages. Because this is a story about Solomon's staggeringly large family, she launches into a great deal of family history, tracing the clan's polygamist past and recounting the recriminations and threats of arrest that color each generation. She describes her father, Rulon Allred, with a subtle combination of attraction and repulsion, giving polygamy a human face while showing how flawed that countenance can be. This long way around to Solomon's own story can be plodding at times, but when she begins to lay bare her personal history, the book crackles with new life. The writing style, a gentle cadence full of detail, serves the story well, as when the author, who was born in 1949, describes her family as being like the deer in the mountains above Salt Lake valley: "For the most part, we were shy, gentle creatures who kept to ourselves, ruminants chewing on our private theology, who dealt with aggression by freezing or running." As Solomon tells of the struggles of the five wives her father had, and the hard times they endured as the authorities sought to enforce antipolygamy laws, she delves deeply into matters of identity, belonging, persecution and independence.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.