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Hidden Wives

Hidden Wives

4.4 46
by Claire Avery

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Fifteen-year-old Sara and her beautiful sister, Rachel, are too young to legally drive a car—but are approaching spinsterhood in Utah's secret polygamist Blood of the Lamb community. Having long since reached the "age of preparedness," they will soon be married off to much older men chosen by the hidden sect's revered Prophet.

As Sara, chosen to become her


Fifteen-year-old Sara and her beautiful sister, Rachel, are too young to legally drive a car—but are approaching spinsterhood in Utah's secret polygamist Blood of the Lamb community. Having long since reached the "age of preparedness," they will soon be married off to much older men chosen by the hidden sect's revered Prophet.

As Sara, chosen to become her uncle's fifth wife, grows more distraught over her impending incestuous marriage, she begins to scrutinize the faith she has followed blindly her entire life. But for Rachel, who will be married to one of the many powerful community leaders vying for her hand, disobeying the Prophet means eternal damnation. Her friendship with the newest member of the community, the young and handsome Luke, starts as an attempt to save his agnostic soul, but ends with the pair falling helplessly in love. When Rachel is forbidden to see him, her absolute faith in the Prophet is severely tested.

When Rachel's future husband is finally announced, violence erupts, and the girls must find the strength to escape the only life they have ever know…before it's too late.

Claire Avery has woven a stunning tale that could be ripped from today's headlines. Shocking and empowering, Hidden Wives is a page-turning debut that will stay with the reader.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
This undistinguished debut by the pseudonymous Avery (two sisters who were raised in a fundamentalist Catholic community) focuses on a horrifically oppressive Utah religious sect.Young female members of Blood of the Lamb, like sisters Sara and Rachel Shaw, are generally wedded by the age of 15, “assigned to be sealed for all time and all eternity in a celestial marriage.” Male members, by contrast, can only attain the highest level of heaven by taking at least three wives.Prophet Silver, the movement’s leader, decrees that Sara must marry her father’s half-brother, and singles out the attractive Rachel for his own special attention. Both girls, after exposure to the outside world, consider leaving the community. The violence, sexual abuse, and the predictable consequences of inbreeding aren’t for the faint of heart, but readers should also be prepared for more melodrama than drama. Betty Webb does a better job with the contemporary polygamy theme in Desert Lost. (June)
From the Publisher

“Avery's captivating story set in the world of polygamy depicts the struggles of two teenage girls deciding whether to follow beliefs ingrained in them from birth. A compelling plot, authentic characters, and a genuine love story make this a great read.” —RT Book Reviews (4 1/2 stars)

“Though fiction, Hidden Wives reads like a first-hand, eyewitness account of polygamist lifestyle... a suspenseful page turner you can't afford to miss.” —Irene Spencer, New York Times bestselling author of Shattered Dreams

“A poignant yet realistic tale of family love, loyalty, and dysfunction set in a ripped-from-the-headlines polygamist cult. This is no watered-down Big Love but a gripping foray into the realities of family ties that strangle. Hidden Wives is an engrossing insider's look into a world where faith is confused with religion, but where the powerful bond between two sisters and their search for justice succeeds in restoring faith in us all.” —Karen White, award-winning author of The Lost Hours

Hidden Wives is a compelling story that rivets the reader's attention from start to finish. With searing insight, Avery manages to capture the all too real horrors which girls and women must endure inside fundamentalist Mormon and Christian polygamist cults.” —Andrea Moore-Emmett, award-winning author of God's Brothel

Product Details

Tom Doherty Associates
Publication date:
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Product dimensions:
8.24(w) x 5.68(h) x 0.90(d)

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Read an Excerpt

Hidden Wives

By Claire Avery

Tom Doherty Associates

Copyright © 2010 Claire Avery
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-7653-2689-8


For as long as Sara could remember, she jolted awake every morning, startled to be alive. Whenever her father looked at her, she imagined him calculating the width of her neck and the degree of pressure he would have to exert in order to snap it. This preoccupation with her own demise had become a morbid distraction, preventing her from planning her life further ahead than minute by minute. Yet somehow those minutes had stacked up over the past fifteen years, propelling her to this day.

Waiting by her father's dilapidated truck, Sara shivered despite stagnant desert air that had choked the valley for months. Swallowing hard, she fixed her gaze on the temple with its starchy white bell tower etched across the burnt umber of the foothills. It stood in reverent splendor and jarring contrast to the chalky aluminum meeting hall where Prophet Silver would soon decide whom she would marry.

Sara eyed movement behind the dirty mesh of the screen door leading into their home. Rachel emerged from the house with a bounce to her step. "Ready?"

Sara nodded, overwhelmed by Rachel's beauty and excitement. If only she could borrow a little of both, then perhaps she wouldn't feel so doomed.

Their father surged through the back door, followed by a swarm of women and children. He pecked the cheeks of the four women and ruffled the heads of the toddlers. Approaching the truck, he actually smiled. It was a big, toothy grin that split his cheeks in two like a cracked egg. He flung open the passenger door and the two sisters piled in.

"You girls need to pray," he ordered, thrusting the truck into reverse and throwing an arm across the seat as he pivoted to look behind him. "Ready your hearts and minds to receive Prophet Silver's words with humility."

Sara closed her eyes to pray, but she was disturbed by her father's presence. He smelled like skewered beef and heavy grease, the stench originating from the goop he applied to his hair every morning. Despite the gel, the hair behind his ears flipped outward, reminding Sara of the headgear on a ram.

The car shot forward on the gravel road.

Sara's stomach pitched. This was it. She cast a glance toward her sister, who had immediately bowed her head and closed her eyes. Sara did the same, but not a single prayer came into her mind. It was rumored that the prophet could peer into a soul and pluck out the one thing a sinner was most intent on hiding. That alone should jump-start the prayers, but it didn't. Sara pressed her leg against Rachel's and was comforted by the reassuring pressure back. Maybe she wasn't praying either.

Planters filled with an assortment of spiky cacti, some as big as bathtubs, marked the entrance to the meeting hall. Thin, gun slit–shaped windows straddled the doorway of the metal building.

Sara followed Rachel and her father on wobbly legs. The foyer was deserted and their steps echoed in the empty building as they made their way to the prophet's office.

The prophet was an elderly man, yet he exuded a youthful energy and an intensity that seized Sara in the gut. Taller than her father's six feet, he loomed large with his lumpy nose and square jaw. Hard, gray eyes were crosshatched with seventy years' worth of wrinkles. She had never been this close to him. It felt both humbling and frightening. Sara wanted to bolt for the door.

"Good to see you again, Brother Abraham," Silver said, briskly shaking their father's hand.

"We're honored to be here."

Silver turned toward them. "It's not every day my office is graced with such lovely young ladies." Sara flushed at the moist palms she presented. His eyes barely brushed hers before moving to Rachel. Wrapping two massive hands around hers, he held them while soaking up her beauty. "You must be Rachel."

"Yes, sir." Rachel kept her head down. Sara watched in horror as the prophet wrenched her chin up with his forefinger, forcing her to maintain eye contact. He was the closest person to God that Sara had ever met, and yet all she wanted to do was shield Rachel from his penetrating gaze.

"You will look at me when I address you."

Sara held her breath. She knew what an effort it was for Rachel to maintain eye contact with any adult, much less the Chosen One.

"Yes, sir," Rachel whispered. She cleared her throat, and spoke louder. "I'm sorry, sir."

"Good girls submit and receive blessings. Willful girls rebel and are cursed," the prophet said. "Do you choose total submission over rebellion, blessings over curses, the Celestial Kingdom over hell? Will you submit to the divine authority deeded to me by the heavenly Father in the Law of Placing?"

"I do," said Rachel. He dropped his hands, turning to look at Sara.

She echoed Rachel's proclamation, but the words rang hollow in her ears. She didn't care who the prophet had chosen for her. Her future consisted of minute-by-minute survival, and that was all.

Still, a bubble of curiosity percolated in her chest.

"Good." The prophet smiled paternally. "Please take your seats."

Several maroon leather chairs were arranged in front of an enormous mahogany desk. Walking behind it, Prophet Silver took a seat and shuffled papers. Sara's upper lip went numb as it did when she was frightened.

The prophet cleared his throat, picked up a pair of glasses and settled them low on his nose. "Now to business."

He looked down at a sheet of paper on his desk, then back up, catching Sara and her sister under his penetrating stare. "The two of you will become the mothers of our future priesthood holders. Perhaps your own sons will be called to a position of great authority on the Ruling Council. That is an enormous responsibility, and one that I do not take lightly when placing girls in a blessed union. Normally, my role is straightforward. As a girl comes of age, a member of the community will come to me with a testimony asking for the hand of that girl. I then pray for guidance and will receive an answer from the Almighty."

Sara sensed her father's movement as he nodded in agreement with the prophet's words.

Prophet Silver continued, "Sometimes, the Lord speaks to me immediately, and the couple becomes sealed for all eternity within weeks of the initial testimony of marriage. Other times, the Lord has different plans that may take months or even years before divine inspiration is received."

Sara suppressed a nervous smile. She thought of a few of those girls whom no man had ever received a testimony to marry. There was Henny Reynolds, a woman well into her twenties, who had been born with a severe limb deformity that caused her arms to resemble two tiny chicken feet. Julia Walker, a friend of their mothers, had scaly skin that rose from the collar of her dress and wrapped around her neck like a reptilian choker. Several other girls came to mind, all suffering from some affliction or another and all of whom remained single.

Prophet Silver leaned back in his chair and plucked the glasses off his nose. Looking right at Rachel, he said, "You're approaching your sixteenth year and still have not been placed. Sara is several months younger than you, but she must wait until you make your endowment before she too can be married." The prophet stroked his chin. "However, a situation has developed that will further delay your endowment."

Sara darted a quick look at Rachel, whose bottom lip had begun to tremble. She wanted to reach out and grasp Rachel's hand to steady her.

"We've had sixteen testimonies from various members of the community." The prophet leaned back.

Sara thought she might be sick. She pressed her index finger against her upper lip, testing its obedience.

"You mean to tell me," Father said, "that sixteen men have received testimony for Rachel?"

"Correct," Prophet Silver said. "And to complicate matters, several of these revelations have come from very holy men that sit on the Council."

Father leaned forward. "Who are these brothers?"

"That is not your concern." The prophet picked up the pages and slid them into a folder. "The problem is that you waited until your daughters were fifteen before seeking my guidance. Most men consult with me when their girls reach the age of preparedness at thirteen."

"But the obligation only says I need to bring them no later than fifteen."

"True, but not when you have a daughter such as Rachel who is exceptionally blessed."

Dread settled in Sara's stomach. Sara was a little surprised at his use of the word "blessed" to describe her sister's beauty. Whenever a woman was called blessed, it was always in reference to her fertility.

Rachel's beauty had impacted her own family all her life. She had thick chestnut hair, sea green eyes that blazed gold in certain lights and a sweet nature that inspired love and rage in equal parts from those who lived with her. The children all adored her, but the mothers occasionally treated Rachel as a threat. It was her father's anger, however, that most concerned Sara. As Rachel's beauty grew, so did their father's rage.

Father cleared his throat. "What am I supposed to do?"

"The Lord has special plans for your daughter. I didn't realize it until I saw her. I must pray about this before I make any decision." Prophet Silver cleared his throat and turned to Rachel. "Obviously, there is something about you that has caused these men to confuse their desires for divine intercessions. Have you in some manner enticed these men?"

Rachel shook her head in a slow, ambiguous way.

"That remains to be seen." Prophet Silver turned to their father. "I need to see Rachel privately in my office to discuss this matter further. Is this acceptable to you?"

"Of course." Her father's voice sounded defeated as he squirmed in his seat. "What about my younger girl? Don't she have to wait 'til Rachel is placed?"

Sara held her breath. For the first time in weeks, she felt hope. Perhaps she would have time to finish school before making her marriage covenant.

"Walter Merrick has received the testimony for her hand. I prayed about it and God ordained that Sara will belong to Brother Walter."

Sara clenched her teeth to bite back a scream. Suddenly the room seemed smaller and the air stingier. She grasped the arms of the chair as though readying herself for flight. Only there was nowhere to run.

"After Rachel is married, Sara will follow suit. In the meantime," Prophet Silver turned to Sara, "consider yourself engaged."

"But he's my ..." Sara's heart pummeled against her chest. Her tongue tangled before she could get the rest of her protest out.

"Do you dare question the will of the Lord?"

"No, sir, no ..." Even though it had been an hour since she'd eaten, Sara's lunch crawled back up her throat. She looked at Rachel, whose features were clenched in a silent plea, imploring her not to challenge him. Suddenly the words her mother gave her came to her. "I ... I'm filled with gratitude for my heavenly placement."

"Good. You will be blessed in this union."

She had no choice but to accept the dictates of the prophet. She would marry her father's half-brother. Even death would offer her no reprieve, because once she became sealed to her uncle in the temple, the bond survived the grave. She would become her uncle's wife for all eternity.

"Well," the prophet said, brushing the folder aside, "I think we've had a very fortuitous meeting." He seemed to be enjoying himself, as if destroying her life was entertainment. His head pivoted toward Rachel. "I'll be in touch." His eyes traveled from the tips of Rachel's feet all the way up to her face. His expression troubled Sara. He didn't seem concerned with her sister's salvation, but with something else. Sara wrapped her arms around her middle. An incredible sense of loss welled in her, bleak and suffocating. Their childhoods were over.

Her father held the door open for the girls, allowing them to exit ahead of him. The gesture, full of innocence, waved a red flag in Sara's brain. As they climbed into the truck, Sara pulled Rachel close to her side. Her entire body braced against the unspoken threat.

He closed the door, gently, and then spun around with hands that came out swinging. They connected with Rachel's tender face, and his words were sharp and stinging like the needle teeth of a piranha. "You filthy whore!" He grabbed a fistful of hair and jerked her head back. "How dare you throw yourself around this community like a slut? Even the most holy of men have been tempted by your ways!"

"I'm sorry ..." Rachel held up her arms in a defensive posture. "I didn't mean anything."

"You never mean nothing." He released her hair, yanked the gearshift and threw the truck into reverse. It backed away from the parking spot, moving surprisingly slow considering all the rage flying around the interior of the cab. When they turned the corner, her father gunned the engine, causing the wheels to spin out and spit gravel. They shot down the road.

"I must look like a father who can't control his own daughter. You've shamed this family, and dragged my good name through the filth!" He slammed a fist against the steering wheel.

Sara plastered herself against the door of the cab, pulling her sister as close to her as possible. She took both of Rachel's hands, feeling the tremors course through her body. Sara knew she should say something to defend her, but she couldn't. It was almost as though she was flying outside her body, riding shotgun with these two strange girls who were being screamed at. She pinched her arm hard, trying to bring herself back to the moment.

"You know what the prophet said back there?" His voice had that dangerous tone to it. The one that caused the air to settle around Sara's feet like a sullen mist. "He was saying that I don't have control over my hussy daughter who's out there tempting the most holy of men."

"Father, I'm sorry."

"Sorry? You'll be sorry when I finish with you."

THEY had arrived home to a festive dinner. An elaborate three-tier lemon cake that Sara's mother, Anna, no doubt had baked, presided triumphantly in the middle of the table. Anna loved to bake, and it was one of the few times Sara would see a genuine smile pierce her mother's thin lips. But there was no celebration. The mothers bustled about, their faces tightening with anxiety as Father refused to tell them anything about the meeting. They dared not press him. Pure torment gripped Sara as she waited for Rachel to reemerge from the whipping shed. It seemed incredible to her that life transpired within the household. Shouldn't alarms be ringing or prayers rushed to heaven while Rachel was being beaten? Instead, the home pulsed with the electrified chatter of her mothers, the whinnies of small voices trickling down from the boys' bedroom and the clatter of dishes that were shunted from table to sink where Sara worked.

Through Sara's little window, she watched the sickle-shaped moon brighten as the sun bled into the night. It enraged Sara thatnobody, not even nature itself, cared what was happening to Rachel.

"Sara Anne, I am speaking to you!"

Sara jumped, nearly losing hold of a dish. She turned to look at Mother Marylee, her father's first wife, a broad-hipped, thick-lipped woman who birthed Rachel, along with Rowan, Russell and Rudy. Sara secretly called her the Queen since she threw her power around and actually considered herself to be the most blessed since she was his first wife. In Sara's eyes, the Queen had just married misery before the other three wives did.

"I'm sorry, I was just daydreaming."

"I know what you were doing." Mother Marylee nodded in the direction of the woodshed. "And you better stop doing it and pay attention to those dishes before you break something. Understand?" She planted another stack of dessert dishes on the counter.

"I'll be more careful."

Sara turned back toward the sink and immersed her hands in the oily water, but Mother Marylee stayed put. Her voice turned light and conversational. "So, what happened at the meeting?"

Sara could feel hot stares on her. Her back pinged as though assaulted by a thousand needle pricks. She pulled her shoulders together as though readying herself for a thump on the back of her head.

"It was all so strange," Mother Marylee continued. "Your father wouldn't even so much as look at the celebratory cake we made special. What did that girl do to get his ire up?"


Excerpted from Hidden Wives by Claire Avery. Copyright © 2010 Claire Avery. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.


Meet the Author

Claire Avery is a pseudonym for a writing team of two sisters, Mari Hilburn, an attorney, and Michelle Poche, a journalist and screenwriter. Hilburn and Poche live in Texas.

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Hidden Wives 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 45 reviews.
Kaz70 More than 1 year ago
I received an advance review copy of HIDDEN WIVES. I could not put it down. I read it in one sitting, something I haven't done in about ten years. There was so much tension in every chapter, and the characters were so compelling and richly drawn that I found myself worrying about these two teenage girls growing up in this bizarre and predatory polygamist cult. This story stays with you long after you finish the last page. I highly recommend it.
SmartBooks More than 1 year ago
Claire Avery's Hidden Wives presents a piercingly emotional landscape through Sara and Rachel, two sisters coming-of-age in The Blood of the Lamb community - a fundamental polygamist sect in Utah. At 15 and 16-years-of-age, Sara and Rachel are bordering on spinsterhood. Most "girls" receive their marriage confirmations as early as 13-years-of-age through the "law of placing." The more wives a man has, the more likely he will attain the status of a god in the afterlife. It does not take long for the reader to realize the caustic effect of this practice: bride shortages. With the shortage of brides comes the unspeakable acts of child marriages, incest, rape, and violence. One of the most difficult parts of the book to read was the birth of a child as a result of an incestuous relationship - absolutely heartbreaking. Yet it is in these most mordant moments that we also see unmitigated acts of kindness, forgiveness, love, and authenticity. The most liberating and pivotal moments in the novel for me, are when Sara decides to take books from the local supermarket and return them after she has read them. I envisioned Sara reading Jackie Collins, Candace Bushnell, and Jennifer Weiner. It is through this small act of defiance that Sara sets herself apart from the rest of her community. She begins to question status quo and realizes that there is an entirely different world that exists outside the Blood of the Lamb Community. While this act of defiance almost costs Sara her life, it also leads her to meet a young black man who suffers from echolalia. I had not realized what this was prior to reading this book and think the writers are brilliant in their creation of this character. When I first began reading the dialogue between the characters...I thought the repetition of last parts of sentences would be quite distracting...it was actually some of the most beautiful writing I have ever read. By the time I made it three-fourths of the way through the novel, I was tense, grinding my teeth, holding my breath....I think the readers needed the "bat" scene. I am even appalled at my own reaction to the scene in the book...I literally said out loud, "one more time for the cheap seats in the back!" I am mortified to even admit I said this, but there you have it...a genuine emotional response that shocked even me! I am so thankful to have come across this book and have been able to think of little else since completing it this morning at 4 AM. I recommend this book to EVERYONE; it truly is one of those books that will stay with you long after you have read the last word. Life-changing, gut-wrenching writing!
JustinMurray More than 1 year ago
Claire Avery is exceptionally talented at crafting plot and suspense. Hidden Wives is the story of three teenagers - Sara, Rachel and Luke - who live in a polygamist Mormon community that marries young girls to older men, and drives adolescent boys out of the community to eliminate sexual competition. Within that story, there are elements that make this book a great read for readers with very different literary tastes: deep characters who undergo fascinating evolution and development as the story progresses; gripping suspense and adventure that subjects the main characters to peril (and creative escapes) at every turn; and a well-researched look at the rituals and theological beliefs of one of the major separatist cults in the United States. Pick up this book... you won't put it down!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Really enjoyed this.
needthebeach1 More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed reading this book and would recommend it. I also could not put it down and couldn't wait to see what would happen next to each of the characters. I have been interested in reading the stories of women escaping from the cult of Polygamy and even though the characters were fictional, it told a story of what other books have shared of the control that the men in that cult have over the women and girls growing up there.
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sneps More than 1 year ago
Secret weddings, forbidden love, sister wives, incest, mystery, and suicide are just some the ingredients that make this novel so fascinating and a "must-read". Claire Avery (two sisters) are not from the fundamentalist LDS church, but they certainly have done extensive research into this unspoken sect of the LDS faith. Woven with the history of Joseph Smith's religion (Latter-Day Saints) and a contemporary story is what makes this book magical. I could not put this book down and connected with both sisters, Rachel and Sarah. Rachel is the more devout follower of the faith, while Sarah begins to question a faith that chooses her husband at 15 years old and determines her future. Rachel represents women who do not challenge their faith, as she strives hard to be a model for others. She views her struggles and questions with the faith as not being enough of a believer and thus accepts whatever is chosen for her. However, Sarah wonders what life is like outside the walls of their secluded community and begins to see the world differently as she exposes herself to books (which are forbidden to be read). Luke and Irvin are minor characters in this intriguing story, however their impact in the lives of these sister's is monumental. Will Sarah marry her uncle? Will Rachel marry the Prophet or run away with Luke? Will the sister wives ever escape? These are questions that as a reader I had. While giving each character opportunity to develop and for the storyline to progress, this book leaves no stone unturned.
Lu-La-Bell More than 1 year ago
This is a great read. Gives you a peak into a life unfamilar to most. It was an interesting read and left you really caring about these girls.
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