Rachel and Sara are fifteen, an age by when they should be married. In Utah's secret Blood of the Lamb community, that is. When the book begins, their father is taking them to see the prophet to decide who they should marry. Sara is to be wedded to her uncle, while Rachel has received sixteen "testimonies". (For a marriage to be fixed, a male should receive a testimony or a message from God to marry someone.) Rachel's sixteen testimonies send the same message to both her father, who believes Rachel is a slut, and to the prophet, who driven by lust, takes more time to decide Rachel's case.
Now that was a powerful start!
Their community practices polygamy. Their father has four wives, and many children. In order to remember which child belonged to which wife, he devised a naming system that each wife name her children using the same starting character. Each night, the wives take turns in bed with their husband.
A woman's purpose or calling is to be a fertile ground for her husband's seed, creating a multitude of saints on earth.Now that made me sick!
Hidden Wives was a very engaging read filled with some strong characters. Sara is outraged at her match. She is not as pretty as her sister, and occasionally feels sad about that. Rachel is a devout. She considers any departure from her faith as blasphemous, and while Sara becomes increasingly distant from her beliefs, Rachel prays even more than usual. When Luke comes to their town because his father wants to convert to the Blood of the Lamb faith, Rachel finds herself falling for him. His hostility towards their religion blanches both Rachel and Sara, but soon Rachel makes it her mission to convert him.
I liked Rachel least of all. It could be because I have a low tolerance for people who are so blinded by their faith that they do not see reason. (Now, before you throw tomatoes at me, let me assure you that there are a number of very devout people among those I love dearly.) Rachel was sometimes... impossible. I felt very exasperated when I found her attributing everything to God, be it good or bad, so when things do go wrong for her, I could hardly feel sympathetic. When Sara was destined to be the fifth wife of her uncle, all Rachel can wish is that she herself becomes the first wife of someone. Sara, on the other hand, was mature. She was quick to reject what goes against her convictions and is more in control of her observance and instinctual skills. When her father beats her, she spends a whole night cursing him. But Rachel only sits back with acceptance.
Hidden Wives was a riveting read. I found myself coming back to it every time I took a break. Still, I had some really minor issues. At times, I found the writing jerky and almost discontinuous, but without taking away my enjoyment of the book. There is one other character who gets suddenly introduced in the latter half of the book. I didn't quite see the point of that because it seemed a little too convenient and unbelievable for me. I also felt that the beginning of the second half was shaky, compared to the rest of the book. Sara and Rachel do things I wouldn't expect of any fifteen-year old who hasn't stepped outside their own community.
Hidden Wives shows humanity at its worst and its best. When one of the wives of a man dies, the remaining wives are serving the men eggs and biscuits, over which they discuss what to do with the body. Everything they do has to be kept from the authorities, so lies are rampant. In addition, the believers pull out their children from their regular school and instead assign them to a single large class that teaches them the tenets of their faith.
The authors have touched upon a lot of themes without overwhelming the reader. At the core is the idea of how much faith one should have in a religion. Along with that, the reader gets a taste of mother-daughter and father-daughter relations at its worst. Child abuse. Man and woman as husband and wife and in a polygamous relation. Rape and lust. Role of women in society. I definitely recommend this read. There is a lot I learned, but mostly I understood how certain customs persist over generations, and how polygamy is still practiced in Utah and neighboring states.
About the author
Check out this book published by Macmillan @ Goodreads, BetterWorldBooks, Amazon, B&N. This book releases on June 8th (That's today!)
I received this book for free from the author for review.