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Secrets and Wives: The Hidden World of Mormon Polygamy Paperback – June 7, 2011

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Editorial Reviews


Praise for Secrets and Wives

"Many of us recognize the stock images of polygamy: the child brides from isolated compounds, like the Yearning for Zion ranch, and the suburban homemakers on television, yearning for their husbands. In Secrets and Wives: The Secret World of Mormon Polygamy, British journalist Sanjiv Bhattacharya pushes past these caricatures to show what Mormon polygamists are really like." —Slate

"Though fundamentalist Mormon polygamy is portrayed in a benign light on TV (e.g., Big Love), the reality is for the most part much grimmer . . . This is a riveting read for both Bhattacharya’s wry and heartfelt style and the nature of the material." —LIbrary Journal

Praise for The Man with 80 Wives

“Sanjiv Bhattacharya, a likable reporter who smoothed over rebuffs (there were many) with charm, tracked [Warren Jeff’s] trail of destruction from Canada to Texas . . . Sanjiv seemed worried Warren might kill himself and his followers. He is, as I said, a nice young man.” —The Guardian (U.K.)

“A compelling portrait of a sex-obsessed, racist false prophet . . . [Sanjiv] has a nice manner for a documentary TV interrogator . . . slightly bumbling, ingenuous, soft-spoken, wide-eyed, innately self-critical.” —The Sunday Herald (Scotland)

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 367 pages
  • Publisher: Soft Skull Press; First Edition edition (June 7, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1593764081
  • ISBN-13: 978-1593764081
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.3 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (53 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #837,462 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

I'm a journalist from London who moved to Los Angeles in 2000, and I've lived here ever since, barring a couple of years in India editing lifestyle magazines. I like to explore subcultures and fringe groups where possible. So far this has involved adventures with pimps, junkies, bikers, swingers, Minutemen, hackers and polygamists among others.

My work has appeared in GQ (UK), Details, the Guardian/Observer and the Los Angeles Times Magazine. I'm presently the US Correspondent for Esquire (UK).

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

73 of 73 people found the following review helpful By Dancing Barefoot on October 14, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I feel speechless and anything I say seems trite in comparison to how this book affected me. I am the daughter of a polygamist man. Roughly 50% of my family practices polygamy. And when I say family, I mean approximately 800 relatives on my paternal side and probably that same amount on my maternal side. I have family members in the FLDS group, the Kingston group, the AUB group, and family that live at The Rock. Most of the ones I associate with are independent fundamentalist polygamists (meaning they belong to no group). Although my husband and I chose not to practice we still maintain relationships with many of our family members. It's not always easy. I've never quite been able to verbalize what makes it so difficult until I read Mr. Bhattacharya's book. There are so many subtle nuances to these people and their beliefs and I was literally BLOWN away at how Sanjiv picked up on them. Even people that have left and written about it have not even come close to writing about the big picture like Sanjiv did. In my opinion, and I consider myself somewhat of an expert having been around it my entire life, Sanjiv's book is the most accurate depiction of the thought process and psychosis of mormon polygamists as a whole. He didn't lump them all together, but did show their common thread in a commical yet compassionate way. It's easy to look at a "Big Love," or "Sister Wives," style family and think, "Hey, it doesn't seem so bad." Individually it may not be so bad. But look at them as individuals that make up the whole and it's a different story. Sanjiv captured that explicitly!

I absolutely loved this book and I highly recommend it to anyone that wants to really understand mormon polygamy. Even though I've been around this culture my entire life, I still couldn't put the book down!! I always dreamed of writing a book about my perspective and experiences with mormon polygamy. Sanjiv has done it for me, and may I say, BRILLIANLY!!! I can not thank him enough!
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29 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Jonathan Adkison on June 20, 2011
Format: Paperback
Finally... there is a good explanation of Mormon polygamy for the layperson. Like all authors, Sanjiv brings a bias to his book. However, unlike the estranged former wives, jilted "Lost Boys" and mainstream LDS apologists, Sanjiv brings the bias of a skeptical everyman without the typical media sensationalism. It seems to be an honest attempt to understand and explain a subject shrouded in deceit... not an easy task.

Many of the fundamentalists and mainstream LDS will no doubt find fault with his methods and his humor not to mention his conclusions. Sanjiv's wit and irreverence regarding his historical narrative is reminiscent of Parker and Stone's SOUTH PARK episode "All About Mormons". You'll hear "dum..dum...dum.....dum" in your head as you read part of this book.

CAUTION: This is no casual read, as parts will bring a grown man, who otherwise circulates ice water, to tears. Anger, frustration, mirth, pity, sympathy and helplessness are a few emotional responses which can be expected when reading this book; especially, by those who have been touched by "The Principle" in some way.

---A [Jack] Mormon Doctor in Texas
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54 of 61 people found the following review helpful By BZ Banks on May 24, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
When I was about 10 years old I learned about reincarnation from somewhere, probably something on TV that I discussed with my mother. Later that same week I was standing in the lunch line at school and holding court with my new-found knowledge. Because my classmates hadn't heard about this phenomenon, I soon had a rapt audience and began to embellish the tiny fragment of the philosophy that I understood. "You're a 3", I told another little girl whose big brown eyes stared intently into mine. "You've had 3 past lives. I'm a 6, that's as many times as you can go." I was making it up on the spot.

Another girl I barely knew approached and earnestly said, "Do ME" and shoved her face right up into mine. I scowled and gazed deeply into her ingenuous eyes, and it suddenly, and chillingly dawned on me that we weren't playing a game. The other little girls in my 4th grade class were genuinely seeking information from me, and they were anxious to believe my lies. "I can't do any more of you," I said, "It's too tiring."

This is the closest I've ever come to forming a cult. This brief brush with persuasion has stayed with me for 40 years because of the attention I wasn't used to, and the intensity of the desire of my young friends. I was also strangely frightened: I didn't WANT to keep up the lie. I didn't want to come clean, either, but I knew even at that young age the responsibility even of maintaining the facade for a few more days. The naivete, the enthusiasm and the gullibility of my young would-be followers dismayed me, and in a way I couldn't understand then, broke my heart.

If I hadn't had that long-ago experience I think it would be hard for me to believe in cults today.
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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful By M. DeAnn Morris on July 3, 2011
Format: Paperback
When I go into Vroman's Bookstore in Pasadena, I usually go to religion (atheism, agnosticism, Mormon), biography and new books. I did not get past new books last Wednesday. Sanjiv Bhattacharya's book, Secrets & Wives: The Hidden World of Mormon Polygamy, immediately caught my eye. I had about 20 minutes before the movie next door started so I sat down to sample the book. Twenty minutes later, I purchased the book. I continued reading the book later that evening.

I have since finished the book and am happy to put it in the "Mormon" section on my bookshelves.

At the beginning of the book, when I noticed that Sanjiv was commenting and sharing his viewpoints, I was troubled. My first thought was that his material could stand on its own without his spin, that the impact would be greater if he just reported. As I read on, I realized that Sanjiv was having the same responses and making the same internal comments that I might have in the same situation. Then I started experiencing his observations as truly and hilariously funny.

I enjoyed this book. I am appreciative that Sanjiv did this research and put himself in these crazy situations with these crazy people, the Fundamentalist and polygamists and, by extension, the mainstream Church. This is the first book on polygamy I have ever read which is a broad sweep, a large picture of the many branches of polygamy. At the same time, Sanjiv personalizes each branch with the relationships he forms with the respective members.

Who ARE these people? The charming, seductive leaders with their outrageous stories of pipelines to God; the gullible, needy women who fall into love and into line. It is the mainstream Church, only magnified, parodied.
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