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Sister Wife Paperback – November 1, 2008

19 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Celeste lives in Unity, a community centered around the strict religious ways of the Movement, and one of their chief tenets is polygamy. Celeste’s impending fifteenth birthday means she will soon be assigned a husband, though secretly she harbors doubts. Her “impure thoughts”—simple and recognizable teen lust—are further stoked by her true-believer sister, Nanette, and Taviana, a former teen prostitute taken in by the Movement. The story shuttles between the first-person accounts of the three protagonists, and although their voices are sometimes too similar, their accounts of subservient life are fascinating. When Taviana is kicked out of Unity, the difficulties of adjusting to civilian life are clearly illustrated. Although Hrdlitschka is careful not to condemn, her details are damning—Celeste’s mother, one of her father’s five wives, is dying because her womb can’t handle her seventh straight baby, yet community doctrine prevents a doctor’s interference. Such specifics make this an infuriating book about faith—which is entirely appropriate. Grades 9-12. --Daniel Kraus


"Very well-written and filled with realistic and honest characters, Sister Wife is not to be missed...definitely in my top 5 books read this year." (Amanda Snow A Patchwork of Books Blog 2008-10-08)

"[Shelley Hrdlitschka] has done a fabulous job of creating this other world for us...Compelling storytelling about characters you really come to care about." (CBC Radio One - All Points West 2008-10-16)

"Hrdlitschka handles the sensitive areas of sex and abuse skillfully, keeping the emphasis on a young woman's attempts at understanding herself and coping with difficulties rather than the actual acts. Highly recommended." (CM Magazine 2008-11-21)

"This compelling story combines authentic characters to pique the interest of a wide array of teens and get them talking about faith and free will." (VOYA 2008-12-01)

"I really enjoyed this book and the more I though about it, the more I liked it...This is one that will appeal to teens and adults alike." (Abby Johnson Barrington Area Library, IL 2008-11-25)

"Although Hrdlitschka is careful not to condemn, her details are damning...Such specifics make this an infuriating book about faith - which is entirely appropriate." (Booklist 2008-11-01)

"I appreciate the author's portrayal of this alternative religious life. She carefully considers the positive as well as the negative aspects of such a rigid community structure, and...avoids sentimental endings." (KLIATT 2008-11-01)

"Hrdlitschka weaves this tale with her usual skill - with warmth and humour, and allows humanity to bloom in the most unexpected corners of the world she has built. It's an amazing read from an author who continues to surprise and entertain with every book she writes." (K.C. Dyer 2008-12-01)

"Sister Wife is a great look at what keeps us loyal to our families, our faith, and our traditions and leads me to ask myself which character would I be if I was raised in such a community. Recommended." (Natasha Maw, Maw Books Blog 2009-01-06)

"An excellent book, a fascinating book...packed with ethical implications." (Becky Laney, Becky's Book Reviews blog 2008-11-29)

"Readers drawn by a topic that's been newsworthy of late may come away with a broader understanding of the human possibilities within such communities." (The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books 2009-01-01)

"[Hrdlitschka] challenges readers to examine their own ideas and beliefs about relationships, family and religion...Teen readers will thoroughly enjoy reading this novel!" (Resource Links 2008-12-01)

"Having three different points of view was an excellent idea... Sister Wife is an interesting look at a polygamous community and how it affects the children within those religious sects." ( 2009-01-01)

"A fascinating portrayal of life in a polygamist community. I couldn't put it down." (Fresno County Public Library 2009-01-10)

"An out of the ordinary interpretation of cult life in a polygamist community. Recommended." (Tucson Unified School District 2009-01-01)

"Hrdlitschka delivers a compelling teen novel, ripped from the headlines, yet thoughtful and peopled with strong characters." (Tri State Young Adult Book Review Committee 2009-01-01)

"The characters, from the multilayered Celeste to the elders of the cult and the confused boys whom Celeste encounters, are all believable individuals engaged in their own struggles…This novel gives depth and nuance to an experience that is portrayed without subtlety in the popular press." (School Library Journal 2009-04-01)

"Beautifully written. The characters of Celest, Taviana and Nanette are sensitively handled...A compelling read." (The Bookmark (BCTLA) 2009-02-01)

"This book will lead to much discussion about the power of faith and how less conventional faiths are viewed in the larger community. Recommended." (Library Media Connection 2009-05-01)

"Oh, The Places You'll Go!"
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 - 18 years
  • Grade Level: 7 - 12
  • Lexile Measure: 680L (What's this?)
  • Paperback: 280 pages
  • Publisher: Orca Book Publishers (November 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1551439271
  • ISBN-13: 978-1551439273
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.5 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,620,109 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By SZAA on October 7, 2008
Format: Paperback
Celeste was born and raised in Unity, a small community that follows the Movement, a religious lifestyle that practices polygamy and resides without a lot of modern conveniences. She has always had to fight to fit in, whether it be with her huge family, her friends, or even within her religion, always wondering if she were meant to be a wife and mother. At 15, she is set to be assigned to a husband very shortly, a man who will be much older than her, already married to several other women, and a father to many. Celeste is not sure she can be happy within that lifestyle, as her younger sister Nanette has felt she is destined to be a part of. Celeste wishes to rebel against the process, but does not want to bring heartache and shame to her family.

Told in alternating voices of Celeste, Nanette, and Taviana, a girl who once lived in the "real world" and stayed for a time in Unity, Sister Wife takes an in-depth look into the life of polygamists and how some women truly believe it is their destiny to be married to a man with other wives and some simply do not. This book is a completely unbiased look into this lifestyle, allowing for the heart of the characters to really flow outward and the message of individuality to come across strongly.

Very well-written and filled with realistic and honest characters, Sister Wife is not to be missed, especially after the recent media coverage of the polygamist sect in Texas. This really is an unbiased view, allowing for the real plot to come through. I loved it.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By P. Newhart on August 7, 2011
Format: Paperback
Turning fifteen in the small, polygamist town of Unity, Celeste knows that this means she will be assigned to marry an older man as a plural wife. She has been dreading this day and knows that it means the end to freedom and also the end of a relationship with another teenage boy in the community. Her sister Nanette, however can hardly wait to be married and start having babies. Taviana, a troubled girl from outside the community, brought to Unity for her own salvation has Celeste thinking even harder about her future and if there are any options available to her. Sister Wife follows the lives of these three very different girls and shares their differing perspectives on life in Unity.

This novel was ok, the concept was interesting but I wish that it had a bit more substance and showed the reader more about life in the community. The descriptions of the characters and scene were very brief. I did like that the author included both characters who liked their lives and characters desperate to change. A good read, just wish it was a bit longer!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Zia on August 25, 2009
Format: Paperback
What I loved:
I loved the character Craig, the outsider who through his building of inukshuks*, shows the Celeste another perspective on life.
After I got used to the character flopping, I really enjoyed this aspect and I think it added to the overall story and made parts of it flow much better.
I think the author did a great job with showing us the struggles that Celeste went through. Her inner thought battles with right and wrong.

What I didn't like:
Certain parts of the story seemed unlikely to happen. Not to say they wouldn't happen but from what you hear/read in news stories, they seem a little more unrealistic. Did those necessarily take away from the story? A little bit but not enough to stop me from reading.

Overall rating:
Even with the few minor details that irked me I really enjoyed this book. I read it in just a few days and for me that is really quick. I don't get much time in the summer to read and to get it done in a few days says something positive for the book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Madigan McGillicuddy on March 17, 2012
Format: Paperback
This is a story of a modern-day polygamous fundamentalist Mormon compound. In alternating chapters, readers get the perspective of 15 year-old Celeste, who is struggling with the idea that she'll be given in marriage to a much older man soon, her 13 year-old sister Nanette, who can't wait to get married and start a family of her own, and Taviana, a 17 year-old runaway and former prostitute who has sought asylum in the community.

Celeste confesses that she's been having "impure thoughts" about a boy her own age, Jon. My heart broke for her when she revealed that her thoughts were of things like, splashing their feet in a creek, or holding hands in a meadow. That's so sweet and innocent! She's been heavily brainwashed, but is actively looking for a way out. Nanette is straight-up creepy. Readers who enjoyed Wither by Lauren deStefano will be reminded of Cecily. It sent a shiver down my spine, reading the pages where Nanette flirts with their neighbor, Martin Nielson, who I believe is old enough to be her father. She even begs her father permission to get married early, as if 16 wasn't young enough! Nanette is enraged when Celeste is promised to Martin - which also struck me as odd, as I was under the impression that it was common for husbands to marry sisters in polygamous households.

Ordinarily, I love a book with alternating chapters, but the three girls didn't feel distinct enough for me, particularly Taviana. With the rough life that she's led, I expected her to sound much less girlish than the other two. It seemed like Taviana was just looking for a place to lay low from the law until she turned 18. I thought she'd sound much more cynical. I had trouble picturing a teen with that kind of backstory so easily and sweetly helping with chores and so on.
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