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Shattered Dreams: My Life as a Polygamist's Wife Hardcover – August 22, 2007


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Center Street; 1 edition (August 22, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1599957191
  • ISBN-13: 978-1599957197
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.3 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (213 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #403,890 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Just as A Mormon Mother is the standout memoir of a 19th-century polygamous woman's life, this autobiography offers the compelling voice of a contemporary plural wife's experiences. Daughter of a second wife, Spencer was raised strictly in the Principle as it was lived secretly and illegally by fringe communities of Mormon fundamentalists—groups that split off from the LDS Church when it abandoned polygamy more than a century ago. In spite of her mother's warnings and the devotion of a boyfriend with monogamist intentions, Spencer followed her religious convictions—that living in polygamy was essential for eternal salvation—and became a second wife herself at the age of 16 in 1953. It's hard to tell which is more devastating in this memoir: the strains of husband-sharing with—ultimately—nine other wives, or the unremitting poverty that came with maintaining so many households and 56 children. Spencer's writing is lively and full of engaging dialogue, and her life is nothing short of astonishing. After 28 years of polygamous marriage, Spencer has lived the last 19 years in monogamy. Her story will be emotional and shocking, but many readers will resonate with the universal question the memoir raises: how to reconcile inherited religious beliefs when they grate against social norms and the deepest desires of the heart. (Aug. 22)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Spencer’s riveting memoir recounts her experiences as a plural wife. Merlington infuses her reading with a sense of the author’s spiritual struggles over her lifestyle. She reads the early parts of the memoir dealing with Spencer’s childhood in a brisk, almost youthful voice. After the author’s marriage at age 16 to Verlan LeBaron, in which she became the second wife, Spencer’s sense of the ordinary collapses in her struggles to understand the religious dictates of her marriage. Merlington expresses Spencer’s internal and external conflicts with sympathetic understanding and heightens the woman’s physical and mental distress with a well-modulated and clearly paced narration. The near death of her 10-month-old son is one of the many horrors Spencer experienced during her 28-year marriage to LeBaron, and one that Merlington highlights with an empathetic tone. --Mary McCay --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

More About the Author

Irene Spencer came from five generations of polygamy. As the second of ten wives, she was the mother of 14 of her husband's 58 children. During her twenty-eight years in a polygamous marriage, Irene gave birth to thirteen children (all single births). Her ninth child was adopted as a newborn daughter. Irene and Hector J. Spencer, her faithful husband of twenty-two years, travel spreading their love between all of their children and loved ones. Irene has 127 grandchildren and 121 great-grandchildren . . . AND . . . there are more great-grandchildren on the way. Irene tells people she doesn't have a family tree, she has a family forest!

Customer Reviews

I recommend this book not only because it is well written and engaging but because it is very informative and educational.
Manderz46
This was a very good read, I found her style of writing easy to follow but felt that towards the end of the book she became rushed with just finishing her story.
Jeannie Howard
I love non-fiction when someone tells about their lives and you just like this person (author) so much you want to read it all over again.
Jane Cason

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

132 of 135 people found the following review helpful By Jo Ana Starr VINE VOICE on August 22, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This is an amazing story, which reads like fiction, although it's not. Irene's real life experiences are hard for many of us to comprehend. Religious principles that promote polygamy as Godly seems alien in the land of the free and the brave. Although now illegal in the US, it's likely that in remote parts of the US, Mexico and elsewhere, young woman are still being indoctrinated in this way. Our author was one of them.

Irene's courage in living this life and then leaving it, is admirable, and the close-up look at fundamental Mormonism this book provides, is a real eye-opener. The reader will feel sympathy, and admiration for this young woman in her struggle to do the right thing. The author reveals to us through this wonderful book, the struggles she endured to get free of the marriage and lifestyle that she felt was wrong. She also shared the aspects of Mormon polygamy that are often overlooked: abject poverty as a result of too many mouths to feed, lack of privacy, abjegation of self, and the continuing indoctrination of female children, and the overall effects of these things on the family dynamic.

I found that Irene's perspective on polygamy and monogamy, having lived in both, and her commentary on this subject is really interesting, particularly to those of us who have only been involved in monogamous relationships.

This is an unusual book on Mormon polygamy written by someone who's experienced it, and despite the author's experiences and struggles to leave that lifestyle, she writes compassionately of the church, her former family members and the experience. This is a wonderful book that is highly recommended.
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139 of 147 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 22, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Shattered Dreams is a fascinating look at a way of life totally foreign to most people. Irene Spencer grew up in the branch of the Mormon faith that still believed in polygamy. The second of what was ultimately her husband's ten wives, she became the mother of thirteen of his 58 children. The statistics are important as they show the unimaginable situation in which Irene Spencer spend much of her life.

This book is a brutally honest memoir of a woman' life. It follows her from place to place, never enough money, rarely in a finished house, living in abject poverty. She loves her husband but is able to spend very little time with him. He is spread too thin trying to meet the needs of both his large family and his church. She yearns for romance and affection, neither of which have a place in the religion she embraces. Her husband rarely sees his children- hard to spend quality time with 58 children. She helps her "sister wives" with their children in an extended system of family and obligations.

Shattered Dreams is a glimpse into the incredible life of one woman. She is able to take the reader through the many journeys, locations and situations in which she found herself. Her ability to look back on the emotions she suffered and share them is a gift she shares thoughtfully and clearly. It is an emotional tale but told without self pity, without holding back on any part of it.

It has basic background on the church, its history and turbulence as it affects her life. A follow up to this memoir would be most welcomed to expand on the Mormon Church and the events that are mentioned in this book. Irene Spencer's ability to handle concrete details along with a descriptive voice would make her an ideal author to examine and share more information on this subject.
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69 of 72 people found the following review helpful By Elizabeth M. Thompson on August 22, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Irene Spencer, in her first book Shattered Dreams, speaks boldly from the heart of a woman oppressed by a patriarchal religious cult and powerfully bares her life of loneliness, longing and determination to overcome.

Her story chronicles the severe pain of sharing a husband with nine other wives all vying for her husband's attention and affection. She lived in abject poverty in the Mexican desert, raising 13 of her husband's 58 children, often without running water or electricity.

Shattered Dreams reads like a page-turner novel and finishes strong. I quickly found myself cheering for Irene as she overcame each obstacle and bravely chose to take control of her life.
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27 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Lisa D. Zissen on September 4, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I grew up in Utah as a non-Mormon. I had always believed that the fundamentalist Mormons were a sick, twisted cult that thrived on child molestation and sex. After reading Shattered Dreams, I see that many of these people were living a life of sacrifice for what they truly believe in. I do not believe in Pologamy or Mormonism 'fundalmentalist or otherwise', but I do understand their plight a great deal more. I have a mountain of respect for Irene and what she endured and sacrificed for 28 years of her life. I could not say that I could be as true to, and as passionate about my religious beliefs, to endure a life of poverty, disease, lonliness, neglect, depression, filth - the list goes on and on. I would have left that life LONG, LONG before Irene finally did!! Personally, I found the book very inspirational. When I think about the way that Irene and her children lived, and how other plural wives are living their lives today, my worries and problems seem almost trivial. This was a great read. Highly recommended!
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