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Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Sister Wife...Review

About the book:
An unlikely shipboard romance occurs in 1840 between a wealthy young Mormon convert from England, Mary Rose Ashley, traveling with her family from England to America, and Gabriel MacKay, one of the builders and designers of the new Cunard line who is evaluating the clipper ship’s performance. Married on board, the newlyweds make their way to the new Mormon settlement in Nauvoo, Illinois and are just settling in when Prophet Joseph Smith receives a revelation from God about polygamy. As one of their close friends from the voyage is suddenly widowed during anti-Mormon riots, Gabriel announces he will marry the beautiful Bronwyn and raise her baby as his own.

Mary Rose loves Bronwyn like a sister, but cannot imagine sharing her husband. Assuming that the relationship will remain platonic, she agrees, and Bronwyn and Mary Rose begin to come to terms with what plural marriage truly entails. Is this really what God wants for them?

I find it interesting when a non-Mormon attempts to write about the history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  I've seen mixed reviews about this book and I was interested enough to check it out of my library.

The novel is mildly compelling, but the characters are one-dimensional and the story was somewhat contrived.   I do think the persecution and mob scenes were accurate, and the conflict that Mary Rose and Bronwyn shared as they struggled with polygamy was believable.  I don't think that any woman asked to practice plural marriage would automatically accept it unconditionally.  However, there are multiple sides to every story.  Those early saints who practiced polygamy did so because they believed it to be a commandment from God. Those who entered into it with a spirit of obedience and love seemed to be blessed.  Others struggled with it and to say that everyone had a positive experience with polygamy is as incorrect as portraying all polygamous marriages as miserable. The LDS church discontinued the practice a hundred years ago and it's in the past, but the fascination and negativity remains.

I appreciate that Diane Noble did her research and documents it.  Still, there are inaccuracies and I would hope that those reading this don't take it as a completely accurate portrayal of the church at the time. 

I didn't hate this story, but I didn't love it, although it was fascinating.  I will admit to being disappointed in some of the discussion questions at the end, as many are negative towards the church.  For a different perspective on a polygamous marriage and one based on factual history, check out Season of Sacrifice by Tristi Pinkston.

Thanks to my local library for having a copy I could borrow.  I will probably check out the next two books in the trilogy, just to see where Diane Noble goes with this story, especially after the family arrives in Salt Lake City.  I simply don't see her having Mary Rose accept this lifestyle.

Read 7/10

* * 
2/5 Stars


  1. I wasn't crazy about this book and totally agree with you that the characters are one-dimensional and the story is contrived.

  2. I was hoping to get an LDS perspective on this book. So thanks for your review! I'll skip this one but may look into the Tristi Pinkston recommendation.