Shattered Dreams: My Life as a Polygamist's Wife [NOOK Book]

Shattered Dreams: My Life as a Polygamist's Wife

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Irene Spencer did as she felt God
commanded in marrying her
brother-in-law Verlan LeBaron, becoming
his second wife. When the
government raided the fundamentalist, polygamous
Mormon village of Short Creek, Arizona,
Irene and her family fled to
Verlan's brothers' Mexican ranch.
They lived in squalor and desolate
conditions in the Mexican desert
with Verlan's six brothers, one sister,
and numerous wives and children.
Readers will be appalled and
astonished, but most amazingly,
greatly inspired. Irene's dramatic
story reveals how far religion can
be stretched and abused and how one woman and her
children found their way out, into truth and redemption.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Just as A Mormon Motheris 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 2007 Reed Business Information
Kirkus Reviews
An engrossing, though flawed memoir about poverty, procreation and polygamy south of the border. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints banned the practice more than a century ago, but some communities of self-styled "Mormon fundamentalists" continue to practice "plural marriage." In 1953, when the author was 16, she became the second wife of Verlan LeBaron, who was already married to her half-sister Charlotte. LeBaron and his wives (he eventually acquired ten) lived in Mexico, which was less zealous than the U.S. in enforcing anti-polygamy laws. But the patriarch couldn't provide for all those spouses and their offspring. They lived hand-to-mouth; Spencer fashioned undergarments from flour sacks and learned to get by without toilet paper. She recounts not just the financial difficulties, but also the emotional struggles of LeBaron's wives, who competed with one another for his affection and attentions. He often provoked the women, as when he gave one wife's wedding dress to a new bride to wear. Nonetheless, the author notes, genuine friendship and love grew among some of the wives. Much of her narrative focuses on sex and childbirth; she enjoyed making love with her husband and tried to cajole him into more frequent romps in the sack. Spencer gave birth to 13 babies, and her descriptions of labor, as well as the pregnancies she attended as an ersatz midwife, become tedious. There are curious omissions here. The author seldom explores how growing up in a polygamous household affected her children. And she offers little detail about how she adjusted after LeBaron finally died. The epilogue tells us that Spencer later became a "born-again Christian" and entered a monogamousmarriage, but that seems an insufficient coda to such an intense story. Gives the lie to the suburban cheer of HBO's Big Love.
People Magazine
Spencer writes grippingly . . . in this brave and honest book, [and] lays bare the secrets of her heart and of a devastating religious practice
People Magazine (4-star review)
Spencer writes grippingly . . . in this brave and honest book, [and] lays bare the secrets of her heart and of a devastating religious practice
From the Publisher
Spencer writes grippingly . . . in this brave and honest book, [and] lays bare the secrets of her heart and of a devastating religious practice—People Magazine (4-star review)

[Irene's] 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.—Publishers Weekly

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781599950310
  • Publisher: Center Street
  • Publication date: 8/22/2007
  • Sold by: Hachette Digital, Inc.
  • Format: eBook
  • Sales rank: 61,951
  • File size: 936 KB

Meet the Author

Irene Spencer currently lives in Anchorage Alaska, with her husband Hector Spencer. During the 28 years of her first marriage to a polygamous husband, Irene gave birth to 13 children (all single births). She also adopted a newborn daughter, who became her ninth child. Irene has 121 grandchildren. She has 49 great-grandchildren. Among her many talents, she is an accomplished seamstress who sews for family and friends, she's a great cook and bakes pastries and homemade bread, she speaks Spanish and English fluently and has traveled to 23 foreign countries and 23 states.

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Read an Excerpt

Shattered Dreams

By Irene Spencer

Center Street

Copyright © 2007 Irene Spencer
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-59995-719-7

Chapter One

As we were growing up, polygamy was the ruling tenet of our lives. This "Celestial Law" was so integral to who we were and what we were trying to accomplish that most often, we referred to it simply as "the Principle." Everything else we were to do or not do, be or not be (a great deal, as it turns out) was ancillary to this: men were to have as many wives and as many children as they possibly could during the few years they walked this Earth. It was upon the conclusion of those trying, earthly years that we would all reap the divine rewards for our obedience to the Principle.

As children, we were not just taught to honor the Principle, we were taught to claim it as our birthright. We were born into it; no conversion was necessary. "You are God's chosen ones, his special children of the covenant" we were told at home and at Sunday meeting, during visits to and from friends, and in all the literature we were allowed to read. We consequently viewed with great suspicion the few strange souls who occasionally tried to join our ranks from the outside. More likely than not they were mere deviants, men who got off on the idea of God-sanctioned sex with multiple women who were bound by oath to endure it. These were not children of the Principle. Children of the Principle understood that polygamy was all about future glory.

I WAS BORN INTO a fourth-generation polygamous family on February 1, 1937, a day that lay frozen under the white shroud of a typical Utah winter. I ended up a middle kid-thirteenth of the thirty-one born to my father, fourth of the six born to my mother. I was Mother's long-awaited first daughter. After me, she had two more.

Mother was the second of Dad's four wives. Rhea Allred, his first wife (a powerful position within many polygamous families), was a smashing brunette with beautiful brown eyes who believed heartily in the Principle and was determined to live it. My grandfather Harvey, who fathered both Rhea and Mother by different wives, wouldn't let Dad marry Rhea until he promised just one thing: to live plural marriage. Outside our Mormon fundamentalist circle, this would have been an unthinkable stipulation to put on a prospective groom, particularly one wanting to marry your daughter. But among children of the covenant, a commitment to polygamy had to come first. Dad complied, initially by word and later by action.

So my mother, Olive, was my aunt Rhea's half sister. In obedience to the Principle, Aunt Rhea urged and ultimately persuaded Mother to marry her husband-my father, Morris Q. Kunz. This was one of the more vexing contributions polygamous women were called on to make: the recruitment of new wives into their husband's households. After all, only so many women were born into the Principle, and each man was commanded to wed as many of them as he could. There was terrible competition. Weary husbands needed assistance, particularly as they aged and grew thicker in the middle as well as thinner in the wallet. A righteous woman who mastered the sin of jealousy and could effectively court others on her husband's behalf was a prize worth having. Generally, she could accomplish it only with her eternal rewards square in her sights. Devout Aunt Rhea managed to do her part. So Mother and Rhea were half sisters who then became sister wives.

Twenty-one on her wedding day (relatively old by polygamist standards), Mother was a lovely, blue-eyed blonde. One might think two beautiful wives would be enough for any man, but in polygamy, nothing is ever enough. A couple years after he married Mother, Dad married Ellen Halliday, who he'd met only days earlier. And another two years after that, while Ellen was still taken up with the birth of their second child, Dad married fifteen-year-old Rachel Jessop, his fourth wife. He was two months shy of twenty-eight at the time.

THE PRINCIPLE WAS NEITHER a license for male promiscuity (though it sometimes felt like it) nor a gratuitous call to suffering (though it quite often felt like that). In harmony with our teaching that "as man is, God once was, and as God is, man may become," the Principle was, quite simply, the way of God.

Many early Mormons believed this planet was given to Adam as a reward for his own obedience to the Celestial Law on some other world. Adam, known prior to his earthly incarnation as Michael the Archangel, was granted the status of a god because of his righteous life. Earth was to be his domain, and the wives and children he acquired on that other world were to help him populate this one, which he would then rule over as God the Father, spoken of in the Christian scriptures. Adam came to Earth with one of his celestial wives to begin mortal life for their spirit children. Their primary mission was to procreate and populate their world, providing bodies to all their spirit children so those children would have the opportunity to work out their own salvation.

Adam chose Jesus, the firstborn of his innumerable offspring in the preexistence, to be the second member of the Trinity (the third being the Holy Spirit). While here on Earth, before he was sacrificed for the sins of humanity, Jesus himself had at least two wives, Mary Magdalene being one of them. When Jesus returns to resurrect the dead, he will exalt to the highest level of celestial glory all male children of the covenant who have succeeded well in living the Principle. They will become gods of their own worlds.

A man who acquires at least two wives in this life is thought worthy of being such a god, and one with seven or more (called a quorum) is practically assured of it. The wives and children sealed to a deserving man while on Earth will assist him in populating the world he is given to rule over in the next link of this godhood chain. The larger his family here, the better head start they'll have there. (There were even mechanisms in place for marrying off dead women by proxy. This was thought to add to the prestige of the polygamist men to whom these women were married.)

Women cannot become gods in their own right. A woman's hope lay solely in being a wife and mother-one of many wives to her husband; mother of many, many children. She thereby contributes to her husband's future kingdom and will ultimately share in his glory as a goddess, an immortal being who will rule under him and alongside her sister wives for eternity. A woman is dependent on her husband god to "pull her through the veil" of death into heaven and divinity. Polygamous women whose husbands for some reason do not merit becoming gods can be sealed to other worthy men. Unmarried women and monogamous women can look forward to being angels in the next life. Angels are forever single and childless, ministering servants to the gods, and part of the celestial audience attendant at others' earthly weddings.

This was the "gospel" of the early Mormons as we were taught it.

DAD WAS A FIREMAN whose family, understandably, grew much faster than his paycheck-an almost universal problem among polygamists. On Dad's salary, there was no way he could afford separate households for each of his wives. This also was common. Wives always needed, wanted, and at times demanded privacy for themselves and their own broods, but polygamous husbands could rarely afford that for very long, especially as they got deeper into living out the Principle. Different compromises were struck in different households. In ours, for a time, the solution was a half-finished fourplex that accommodated all Dad's wives. He built it himself with the help of a few friends on some acreage he bought in the small Mormon community of Murray, Utah, just outside Salt Lake-a spot his four families came to call "the Farm."

For a few months during the construction of the fourplex, my mother, brothers, sisters, and I lived in our neighbor's chicken coop. I was only four years old the night lightning flashes from a threatening line of thunderstorms woke me. Soon the rain was seeping through the coop's torn, tar-papered roof, soaking me to the skin. The next day we moved into our house, though its rooms still lacked even partitions or plaster. We used blankets for dividers, but at least Dad had his whole family under one roof. Aunt Rhea and Mother lived upstairs, while wives three and four lived below. Eventually, each would have her own all-important and much-utilized kitchen. We thought our fourplex a fairly comfortable arrangement for everyone concerned. Still, my four "mothers" suffered in ways I was too young to understand.

It took just one night for us to discover that our old mattresses had been contaminated while we'd been sleeping in the chicken coop. When we moved into the house, the bedbugs came right along with us. We children cried, thrashing around all night, scratching our bites until they bled. Mother turned on the lights and killed the vermin as we squirmed beneath the covers. (I can still remember the unique stench of squashed bedbugs.) The next morning, Mother hauled the mattresses into the August sun and searched each one individually. She stretched the seams where the creatures hid and multiplied, and then she poured hot, scalding water from her teakettle down the folds on the mattresses' sides. After the hot sun dried them, Mother returned them to our bedroom, but the pesky bugs kept snacking on us, and she finally realized they had migrated into the framed walls, hiding where the two-by-fours were nailed together. She fought them continually until the day we moved away.

DESPITE THE LONG HOURS he put in, Dad's modest income always fell far short of our needs. To make up for it, Mother and her sister wives had to be on their toes and working as a team. Creativity and compassion also came in pretty handy. On many occasions, they had to pull together for mere survival.

One opportunity for some major pulling together came in 1942-a year in which the winter arrived early and set in heavy along the Wasatch Mountains. A late-September snow that year caught three pregnant wives unexpectedly. Rachel, Ellen, and Rhea were all with child and couldn't work outside in the cold. This left my mother to do all the harshest chores for the ever-growing family.

In this bitter cold, Mother gathered fuel for the stove. She recruited three of the older children from Rhea and Ellen's families and two of her own. Though they lacked rubber boots for their feet or hats for their bare heads, their mothers tried to bundle the workers up, pulling odd stockings over their hands for gloves. These stretched up to their elbows and were held in place by their tattered, secondhand coats.

Thus attired, the ragtag work team emerged from our fourplex and traipsed along silently in the fresh-fallen snow, each member carrying a gunnysack. They snuck into a neighbor's orchard, lured there by its stark, bare trees, and then scoured the white fields for already fallen, more flammable plunder. Breaking branches into small enough lengths to fit into the cloth sacks, they worked for over an hour as the small children's hands became numb. Mother spurred them to hold their sacks open wide so she could fill each one, shoving in just the amount each child could carry home. When I saw the red faces and stiff, cold hands of the work crew as it returned home, I was glad my mother ignored my tearful pleas to go along.

Each morning, Mother would repeat her foray. Gunnysacks in hand, she'd take a few of us on a "walk," and we'd pick up old shoes, pieces of crates, and broken branches along the way, always trying to gather enough fuel for the day's needs. When we were lucky, the scavenged odds and ends would burn long enough in one stove for each wife to have a turn cooking. Sometimes there wasn't enough for them to light four separate fires in their kitchens. This was just as well. The warmth from that one woodstove generally took the chill off the room in which we huddled together for comfort during those cold winter months.

The four wives humbled themselves before God daily, asking and waiting for him to supply their needs as it became more apparent that Dad could not. At some point, we were left with cornmeal as our only staple, though once each week, we could get a two-day supply of watered-down milk. Mother finally decided that it just wasn't good enough. One day she announced she was taking three of the older kids with her, and they would return only after they'd found something with which to feed the family. Aunt Rhea took her aside and scolded her for building up our hopes falsely, but Mother was determined to procure anything she could to nourish the famished tribe. Having done God's bidding for eleven years now, she expected him to come through for her in this dark hour. Tucking three heavy paper grocery bags under her arm, she led the way out the door and headed toward the nearby fields, where new houses were fast going up.

Mother sang praises to the Almighty as they marched along. She recited a Bible verse, asserting "ye have not, because ye ask not." With what little personal experience in prayer the children had, they implored their maker to send them some rations.

As they approached the construction area, Mother saw a man with a wheelbarrow coming in their direction. She received a premonition and exclaimed to the kids, "I know that whatever that man is dumping on the ground is the answer to our prayers!" My siblings waited quietly while the man returned to his garage, then came back out with his wheelbarrow full a second time. He dumped the contents on top of the first load and then went back inside. He hadn't seemed to notice the little clan standing by, stomping their feet and eyeing his debris. Mother waited about ten minutes, until she was satisfied the man had completed his job. She had no clue what he had deposited, but she knew it would soon be hers.

When she thought it safe, they made a run for it. Mother wanted to cry with joy as she knelt before the heap. Sure enough, God gave us heavenly manna-a magnificent pile of dirty, sprouting potatoes. If she managed it right, this windfall would feed Dad's family for two full weeks. The gleeful kids loaded up their paper bags. Mother instructed them to walk the potatoes home slowly so the bags wouldn't tear open and scatter our treasure down the street. They should then return to the potato pile with our empty wicker baby buggy and two strong gunnysacks, being extra quiet on the way back so as not to draw the attention of any of our nosey, monogamous Mormon neighbors. Mother couldn't bear letting those disapproving tongue-waggers see us scrounging out such a minimal existence.

But the emotions of the three hungry children ran high. They made a clatter probably heard for a block as they raced along behind the ragged buggy, preoccupied with tantalizing visions of hot potato soup.

THE MORMON CHURCH SLOUGHED off many of its basic beliefs beginning late in the nineteenth century, largely under pressure from the civil authorities who outlawed the practice of polygamy, which many Mormons considered integral to their faith. For a brief time after 1890, when they issued the first manifesto renouncing plural marriage, even some of the church leaders continued to privately profess and practice the Principle. They had sent believers to form polygamist colonies across the western United States and as far away as Mexico with orders to safeguard the faith. But political pressures eventually prevailed. A second manifesto, in 1904, ended the practice of polygamy within the Mormon Church, now called the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or just Latter Day Saints (LDS). The command to live plural marriage was suspended; LDS men were to have only one wife.

Torn between God's law and man's law, those who refused to give up plural marriage had to go into hiding. Some of them fled to Mexico; others went underground within their own communities. Despite the transformed doctrines of the LDS Church, these spiritual refugees considered themselves the true Mormons, the faithful followers of Joseph Smith and his initial converts. Their mission now was urgent-to preserve the faith in a time of dark apostasy. More than ever, they believed, the Principle must be lived and lived strictly. Known as fundamentalists, we were their descendents.

By the time I came along, fundamentalist Mormons were a huge embarrassment to the LDS Church. And the fundamentalists, in turn, both resented and envied the LDS. We considered ourselves the chosen ones, the pure in heart, the true "Zion." And the LDS, having abandoned the Principle, were merely worldly. In a way they were worse than the world, since they'd once known the light and gave it up. We prayed for their return.


Excerpted from Shattered Dreams by Irene Spencer Copyright © 2007 by Irene Spencer. Excerpted by permission.
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.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 80 )
Rating Distribution

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 81 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 22, 2007

    Interesting...Sad....not exactly inspirational

    I'm having a little trouble with the 'inspirational' label attached to this book. Yes, the author did leave her husband, but let's remember that was after 25+ years, 13 children, and when he was dead. I felt a little weary throughout the book when she constantly wrote of questioning her faith and yet always she stayed the course. Yes, she was isolated in Mexico and Central America, but she had family in the states and I believe if she wanted to break free, she would have had many opportunities over the years. Certainly she visited the states many times over the years. I felt sorry for all those children she had and the abuse and neglect. Not being available emotionally for your children is a form of abuse, just as not having any food to feed them. Appalling. Another troubling aspect of the book is the ending. She writes she has now been married 19 years. She never indicates how they met or the circumstances, however, there is a picture of what seems to be the same man, and her deceased husband, in the picture section of the book while living in Mexico. I felt a little cheated not knowing how this man fit into her life prior to her marriage to him. Certainly if he was pictured with her deceased husband in Mexico, she had to have known the man when she was living on the ranch there. She wrote that 3 of her 13 children are involved in polygamy! She knows the devastation of this lifestyle, yet has she taken any steps to end this? Does she support her 3 children involved in this illegal lifestyle, or has she turned away from them? She is silent on the subject. I think she should have included a few more chapters on these small, yet large, issues. Having said all this, the book was interesting and I would recommend it to others. I just wouldn't call it inspirational.

    11 out of 14 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 6, 2008

    Great Read

    I had just finished reading 'His Favorite Wife' by Susan Ray Schmitt, the 6th wife of Verlan LeBaron...Irene was his 2nd wife, so I was excited to read the same story from another point of view. If you enjoyed Shattered Dreams, DEFINITELY read His Favorite Wife next and hear the story from Susan's point of view...both are extremely well written and engaging.

    10 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 25, 2010

    Totally absorbing, could not put it down.

    I picked up this book and literally could not put it down. I was totally absorbed in it and read it in two evenings. It left me haunted for several days. Not being Morman, and knowing very little about the Morman religion it was so strange how affected I was by the story. I could truly feel the hurt and jealousy this woman felt. I was so moved at the end of the story I shed tears. Perhaps because the fact she is not a noted author and wrote from her heart I would say it is the best book I have read.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 12, 2012


    Could not put it down

    4 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 17, 2011

    Recommend for any who want to learn about a different way of life.

    Great read for anyone who has ever wondered why individuals join and/or stay in a cult. Irene Spencer painted a vivid picture of her personal experience of growing up in and marrying into polygamy. Even when poverty, physical work, and isolation dominated her life she maintained a charitable heart and a sense of humor. Kudos to Ms Spencer!

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 17, 2011

    A MUST READ! I couldn't put it down!

    "Shattered Dreams" is an excellent look inside plural marriage. The author was a second wife, and her challenges just for survival are incredible. Her church continued with plural marriage long after the Mormon Church, wanting to follow the laws of the land, declared it was no longer a part of the church's teachings. I remember when the new religion, 'Church of the First Born' was first introduced; there were even families I knew who joined. I see the author, Irene Spencer, as a remarkable woman who met the challenges she was given and raised an honorable family but had the guts to finally do what her heart dictated. I admire her for sharing her story.

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 6, 2010

    more from this reviewer


    I grabbed this book at random while i was at Barnes & Noble and figured it would be good. Forget was amazing! I couldnt put this book down. I have told everyone i know to read it and the ones who have finished it cant stop talking about it and said that they couldnt put it down either. What an amazing story and what an amazing woman! I have also read the 2nd book called -Cult Insanity-. This one was really good also. If u havent read it then check it out. I think this is a great book for anyone. I am 22 and the oldest person i told to read this was 61...every age from 22 to 61 thought it was good!

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 26, 2009

    Hard to put it down.

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. It took me to a world I would have never imagined.

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 30, 2007

    I aggree.....

    I aggree totally with the previous review, there are many things left out, along with the death of Sandra, her adopted Mexican daughter. I also was left wondering what the deal was with the picture of her now-husband and Verlan LeBaron back when he was still alive. What a huge thing to leave out! I found it hard to put down, but lots of stuff missing.....

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 20, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Educational and entertaining

    I could not put this book down. I learned a lot about Irene's world and it shattered some of my preconceived ideas about polygamous marriages. This is an excellent memoir, and well worth the time and energy!

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 13, 2007

    Awesome read

    I really enjoyed this book a lot. It is hard to believe what these people go through. I never once got teary eyed in a book, but this one did it for me.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 13, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    An Honest Memoir

    I found it difficult to put this book down. Irene Spencer's story is moving and so honest. Read this book. You will not be disappointed.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 25, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    An honest memoir

    I saw this book sitting on a discount shelf and I started looking at it. I read a few paragraphs and I was hooked, so I bought it. Even though it is a bit long, I enjoyed the story and the feelings, so universal, she was able to transmit.
    I can never really picture myself as a multiple wife, but I can relate to the feelings of jealousy, a sense of duty, fear, etc.

    Great book

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 22, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    This book was enlightening.

    I enjoyed reading about Irene Spencer's life. This book has a diary effect about it.

    Irene Spencer had the same feeling that average women look for in a marriage. The problem was that this marriage was not a normal marriage. Her husband expected her to stand by the principal rules of their lives. They were living God's expectation and not their own self-will.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 14, 2009


    This book is well written and inspiring. I don't know how she survived to write this book. This book was hard to put down, even for a moment. It is a heartbreaking look into the polygamist lifestyle and all the unbelievable brainwashing that goes with it. I am looking forward to reading her next book.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 31, 2009

    I Also Recommend:


    Irene had the chance for a fairly normal life, but was pressured into following the religion of relatives. Her life turned out to be hard-lived, and certainly unappreciated by her husband and the father of her children. I laughed and cried and lived with this woman - just wished I could have helped her do the laundry and change the diapers!! A real fast read! Irene is coming out with another book this Fall which, undoubtedly will rival this one! Based on one woman's experiences living a life of a multiple wife within the FLDS. This woman had strong faith, however misguided. This book makes me appreciate the life that I have! I recommend EVERYBODY to read this book!!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 31, 2009

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    Too Many Wives . . . Too Many Kids

    I can honestly say I've never read anything quite like the life story of Irene Spencer in her memoir Shattered Dreams: My Life as a Polygamist's Wife. Stories like this are seldom told. Either the subject doesn't live to tell the tale, or more specifically, her lack of formal education, interaction with the outside world OR her religion would forbid it.

    My first thought upon finishing this long story of poverty, grief and heartache was, thank GOD she escaped this lifestyle and then found a way to help the world to better understand plural marriage. To most of us, it's a mystery. In spite of the current HBO television drama "Big Love," which focuses on a polygamist family functioning in the outside world and fundamentalists living in a Utah colony, and last summer's news story about the raid of a Texas colony practicing polygamy, I don't think many outside of the Mormon church know much about the practice or the history of it.

    The author lays it all bare and particularly helps the reader understand the rationalizations and belief system behind the practice of polygamy. From growing up in a polygamist household and her struggle through the decision making process of staying faithful to her religion, she becomes the second wife of a man named Verlan LeBaron. What follows is a life of constant pregnancies, constant moving and constant disappointment.

    Spencer's writing style is simple and charming. You can't help but like her and stay with her through page after page of her complaints and heartbreaks. Above all else, it's a fascinating story. I found myself constantly turning to the center photo spread to help keep track of what ultimately became a family of ten wives and over forty children. As I said, it's amazing she lived to tell the tale.

    It's one of those books that will remind you how important it is to count your blessings, and I recommend it for those who enjoy reading memoirs of unique characters.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 12, 2008

    Emotion envoking, couldnt put it down!

    I have recently become interested in Polygamy following the FLDS Eldorado ranch being raided. This book was amazing, it is very well written and gets you so involved with the characters that you cant put it down. It effectly writes the very complicated emotions that follow a life a polygamy which hopefully will help 'outsides' see and understand what these women go through. Im glad she told her story.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 18, 2008

    Stunned and Speechless

    I couldn't put the book down and just speechless over how she lived in the LeBaron Colony in Mexico and US as polygamist's sixth wives. It really opened my eyes and surprised how many children he had with those wives! Now this, in Texas at Ranch very sad.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 20, 2008


    I couldn't put down this shocking and amazing read. Irene Spencer is a fireball whose light blazed throughout this life journey. I didn't want the book to end!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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