What do we really know about modern practicing polygamists - not fictional ones like the Henrickson family on HBO’s Big Love? We’ve seen the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in the news, the underage brides in pioneer dresses on a Texas ranch. But the FLDS is just one of many groups that have broken with mainstream Mormonism to follow those parts of Joseph Smith’s doctrine disavowed by the LDS Church.
Gaining unprecedented access to these communities, journalist Sanjiv Bhattacharya reveals a shadow country teeming with small town messiahs, dark secrets, and stories both heartbreaking and strange. Polygamy’s dark side - incest, forced marriages, and physical abuse - is laid bare. But Bhattacharya also finds warmth in the fundamentalist diaspora and even finds himself taking an ideological stand for polygamy’s legalization.
More than just an exposé of Mormon polygamy, Secrets and Wives is the personal journey of a foreign atheist and liberal, a stranger in a strange land who grapples with hard questions about marriage, monogamy, and the very nature of faith.
©2011 Sajiv Bhattacharya (P)2013 Audible, Inc.
If you have already kept up with the news stories and court cases of polygamy over the last ten years then you will probably find this book boring and tedious. I think this book would be an interesting read for people outside the USA.
I would recommend the print version over the audio version. If someone is not at all familiar with the different polygamous groups in the USA, this book might be interesting.
The narration was not good. I understand that the author is from the UK, but his attempts at Utah accents are just so bad they are comical. Definitely should have had someone else read the book if he was targeting an American audience.
I didn't really learn anything from this book that hasn't already been published in newspapers or magazines.
Say something about yourself!
The fact that the author hit the name on its polygamist head. I grew up with a family of LDS I cannot say any religion on this planet is as harmful to women esecially in America.
A Church only A Man Could Love
Great book, no bias, no one sided thought, very informative.
I love to hear a writer narrate his/her own work as it's the most likely to reflect the intended meaning. Mr. B does a great job as a journalist collecting stories from all sides (including conflicting accounts of the same event) and trying to get to the kernel of truth. He doesn't just take anyone's word but tries to vet and re-vet. Sometimes the truth is hard to pin down so he presents the evidence he finds and lets you work it out. The story is told first-person on a very personal level with a lot of humor interjected, which helps you ingest what is, at times, deeply painful and troubling. At first I was put off by his lack of ear and imitations of Utah natives which came across in odd British working class accents, but once I got used to it I was able to listen past this. At times that was actually part of the humor, almost a Pythonesque-falsetto version of some female voices, but once you get really into the story you should be able to overlook that and get to the content. I enjoyed the book a lot and recommend it to anyone with an interest in religious fringe beliefs, American culture and history (yes, it is part of that), gender rights, Utah politics, marriage, and human beings escaping cultural handcuffs. I will listen to it again.
Audible rawks! My taste is beyond eclectic and Audible always has plenty to choose from, no matter what mood I'm in!
Sanjiv Bhattacharya does the impossible by keeping his cool around some of Joseph Smith's most delusional followers. That he pulls off as much as he does without being 'white and delightsome' makes this book even more amazing.
Bhattacharya's style is smart and humourous, tho' the humour isn't mean spirited even when it comes from the more frustratingly exhausting encounters with people who KNOW they are correct, evidence and science be damned.
Obviously, some tales are sadder/more horrendous than others, but Bhattacharya still manages to find some fundamentalists who are capable of treating him (and their children and each other) with decency and kindness and he repays these few in kind. His patience is, however, generally not rewarded and the bad treatment he receives from a SLC-based "journalist" who seems to be more of an "apologist" for the less savoury cults is very disheartening. Still, he keeps on track and ultimately delivers an excellent overview of the various mormon-based polygamy/fringe groups.
I was spell - bound by the details of the people, their beliefs, and way of life. As a Utah Mormon, with lots of polygamist ancestors, I learned so much--even things I didn't want to learn. Only a thoughtful, intelligent outsider could have written this with such credibility. I highly recommend it.
Maybe some sections. It was extremely well done but a little repeatitive.
The insight into modern polygamy vs historical polygamy.
Very, very charming and fun to listen to. His female voices were not great, but otherwise I thought he was great.
This book is an interesting travelogue of Sanjiv's interactions with some very colorful personalities within the various polygamous groups in Utah as well as those who have left (escaped) the culture. While the stories are fascinating at times, most of the experiences that Sanjiv chooses to focus on are full of abuse and neglect and are at their core quite depressing. Sanjiv lightens the mood through humorous jabs at his subjects, their towns, and especially their faith. I strongly prefer audio books to be professionally narrated (not performed by the author) but it really worked in this case. It is like Sanjiv is telling you all of these crazy experiences over dinner complete with his endearing British accent. 5 stars for the narration.
My problems with Sanjiv's book and the reason why I gave the story only 3 stars are twofold. First, he is obnoxiously dismissive and mocking of the Mormon religion. I am active LDS. It doesn't bother me at all if people disagree with the tenets of the faith or poke fun at the idiosyncrasies of Mormons as a subculture. I'm cool with that, I think that Mormons are funny too. But if Sanjiv is going to call Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon a fraud and mock them mercilessly throughout the book, he better do his homework. His "teardown" of the faith was religious amateur hour and a book this long deserved a little more rigor than that. He seems to have given no serious consideration to the other side of the argument at all. In the end, the tone of the book was that of a smug, liberal atheist from LA swooping in to mock and disparage religious conservatives in small town Utah.
My second problem with the book is that Sanjiv really drills in when he finds abuse, oddities and "dirt" but seems uninterested in the truly happy families. When he meets wonderful people at Centennial Park and The Rock he simply says that they are great and then he talks about the flies or Bollywood flicks and curry. After seeing all of the problems in polygamy, why didn't these examples spark more intellectual curiosity? What are these people doing right? Aren't the positive cases as intellectually interesting and deserving as the scandalous ones? Apparently not for Sanjiv who seems more interested in proving a point (polygamy is evil) than understanding a multi-faceted issue. Sanjiv likes incest, abuse, intrigue, and suspense. But throw a happy community in his path and he doesn't know what to do with it. The snarky atheist quickly runs out of questions. Uh...more banana bread, please? I do agree with Sanjiv that polygamy should be decriminalized, just don't expect him to be fair and balanced.
All that said, it was still worth the price of admission.
I'm Audible's first Editor-at-Large, the host of In Bed with Susie Bright -- and a longtime author, editor, journo, and bookworm. I listen to audio when I'm cooking, playing cards, knitting, going to bed, waking up, driving, and putting other people's kids to bed! My favorite audiobooks, ever, are: "True Grit" and "The Dog of the South."
A London East-Ender, fresh off the boat with an Esquire magazine press pass, goes to Utah to get up close and personal with Mormon polygamists. They proceed to take him into their homes like he’s the first person they ever felt like talking to.
I’ll never know exactly how Sanjiv Bhattacharya charmed or talked the fundamentalists into it, but his narration of his exposé gives you a clue: he is a born natural, a charismatic, a comic, and a raconteur like few others.
Sanjiv was BORN to do this, truly.
Not recommended, unless the reader can see how the author's leftism and atheism renders him blind and dumb to the ultimate truth (Jesus Christ).
The problem with Secrets and Wives is not that it exposes much of the terribly destructive insanity of polygamy, as has been practiced by the FLDS and other Mormon sects. That’s a good thing... to the extent the author, Sanjiv Bhattacharya, does so, at least out of one side of his mouth. The problem is that he spends so much time essentially defending it as somehow understandable or not so bad and comparing government's attempts to stop it, to America's involvement in the war in Iraq, as if everyone agrees with him that that was a huge, unjust overreach by our government, employing the now proven questionable argument that there were no WMD's etc.
This is all because, as a typical, intellectual, leftist, pro-same-sex marriage, pro-abortion, atheist - i.e. stuck in his godless mindset, thus unwilling and actually unable to look at anything truly objectively - he also sees Mormonism as no more ridiculous than Christianity. Obviously not knowing anything really about Christianity, he outright mocks it, thus putting Jesus and Joseph Smith in the same boat… However, of course, as every true and thinking Christian recognizes, like most once were and like so many millions of other "smart" but blind folks, who are just as misguided and impressed with themselves as Mr. Bhattacharya, he clearly knows not what he is doing. There are way too many lapses in logic, common sense and good judgement, displayed by the author, to be able to address them all.
No. He is not a clear enough thinker for me - far too convinced of all the typical leftist pabulum and propaganda.
I did appreciate Chapter 3, where the story of Joe Smith and the history of the LDS church were presented fairly accurately and honestly.
"Interesting and perfectly read."
He had a great, relaxed style. He could have been telling the story to a group of friends late in the evening.
I notice on audible.com that Americans are not loving this! Fear not British listeners. My own experience, together with reviews on Amazon.co.uk, show that this is a cultural issue. This is due partly to the love of Jesus and Christianity harboured by the average American. Bhattacharya explores these disfuctional groups and individuals with typical British cynicism and dark humour. Think Louis Theroux! This approach seems to have offended many American listeners/readers. However, I feel sure that it would only serve to make the book more enjoyable for most Brits.
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