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Publisher's Summary

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. Listeners 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.
©2007 Irene Spencer (P)2007 Tantor

Critic Reviews

"Engrossing....An intense story." ( Kirkus)"Nothing short of astonishing....Emotional and shocking." ( Publishers Weekly)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings


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  • Overall

Eye Opening... Difficult Listen... Honest

Other reviews have called this a long-winded whining. I didn't see it that way. Irene Spencer sprinkles humor in with tragedy. Her account reveals her own weakness as much as the weakness of those she lived with. She is both angry and empathetic. There is a sense of settled understanding even in the midst of chaos.

I wouldn't recommend this as entertainment, but it was a fascinating insight into fundamentalist Mormon poligamy. It teaches broader themes as it recounts the story of one woman.

16 of 16 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Rebecca
  • Wallingford, PA, USA
  • 01-26-08

eye opening

this was a fabulously written, revealing and personal narrative. I appreciated the honestness and openness of the author. I highly recommend it.

10 of 11 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Shattered Dreams

Fantastic listen! There is so much controversy around pural marriage, it was great to hear about it from someone who lived it! Laurel Merlington's reading was superb!

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall


Could'nt turn it off! One second I was totally exasperated with the author for putting up with the ^*&%$ she put up with, the next second I was feeling her pain and could understand. My only criticism was that I would have liked to have heard more---like what was going on with the other wives. The book was very detailed about the first half of her life, and then kind of sped through the second half.Definately facsinating and enjoyable to listen to.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Starlet
  • San Carlos, CA, United States
  • 04-25-10

I Now Know Something About Polygamy

Irene Spencer's story is an easy read and details her life in a polygamous family. I have never read about this subject before and it is incredible how someone could live like this but then you can also understand a little bit when reading the full story. It is sad and pretty clear that polygamy is most definitely more appealing to the men than the women.. Bottom line, women do not get much out of the deal. The book had me hooked just to see if Irene would ever be able to leave. I think this is one of those stories that could not be made up!

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • JJ
  • Essex, CT
  • 07-28-15


Thank you, Irene, for sharing your story. Absolutely fascinating what one will do for blind faith. Really well written - especially for someone for whom education was not a priority until later in life. Irene Spencer is obviously a gifted and very intelligent woman.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Shocking tale of self-inflicted martyrdom

What disappointed you about Shattered Dreams?

I am fascinated by this subject, and feel a great deal of empathy towards those whose lives have been impacted by polygamy and other such cults. Frankly this woman inspired none of this, the book is simply a catalogue of droning, whining, completely self-centered and painfully repetitive complaints.

Not a single other person has their character fleshed out in any way, including the true victims ... her dozen poor emotionally, physically deprived ad neglected children. Nobody forced her into this situation, in fact she had ample opportunity and encouragement to take another path. I literally forced myself to finish the book, but found Irene more and more tediously self involved, irresponsible, and unself-reflective by the minute.

What could have been a rich, informative and constructive sociological account is simply a medium for this woman to flaunt her woes, with zero accountability for the dreadful life she inflicted on her children. She glosses over others' suffering and all the larger sociological issues at hand as though everything was just an insignificant backdrop to her own glaringly narcissistic perspective.

What do you think your next listen will be?

The Big Burn

What about Laural Merlington’s performance did you like?

It was fine, but I have no idea how the woman could have stood reading it out loud!

What character would you cut from Shattered Dreams?

The Author

4 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story
  • Ellenaeddy
  • Chesterton, IN, United States
  • 05-15-12

What did you expect?

I've always been fascinated with the understanding of the bully/victim relationship and how it spins not from one but from both parties. It's cautionary for me.

This book is frustrating to me, because of how deeply this woman buys into a world that is clearly not working for her. She's tragic but she clings rather thoroughly to her tragedy and never catches that she has a part in it. You don't see her growing so much as complying. She keeps feeling used and abused, but she clings to the problem so hard there are really are no answers for her. I found that tiring.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • G.
  • boulder creek, ca
  • 08-21-09

interesting subject matter, too long

I've been interested in Mormonism and polygamy, and have read several books on the subject. This book fell short of the others, not without being interesting. SHATTERED DREAMS is a memoir by Irene Spencer, a second wife who goes in her tender teens to live in a sect in Mexico. Her story is incredible and quite painful to imagine living, but it was the subject herself I had trouble with. She seems to have no issue with the marrying off of young girls to men much older or the inferior position of women in general--unless it relates to herself. When she describes having to have more wives added to her family, the only problem she has with it is her jealousy, that she will have to share. I guess I was somehow under the impression that this would be a scathing view of a Mormon sect, but it's really not. In fact I found myself thinking this woman should just get herself together and stop whining! Either you're in or you're out! I thought the book was good in revealing the capacity of humans and culture, but it was too long and should have been edited A LOT.

5 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Wonderfully Written!

Told with wit and heart. A captivating true story unlike any other. Irene Spencer was an amazing woman that I had the pleasure of talking to over the phone several years ago when I first read this book. I reached out to her on Facebook because I had friends from Colonia Lebaron. She called me almost immediately and we talked for about 45 minutes. She made me feel like we had known each other for years. Although we only spoke that one time, she made such an impression on me. I only wish she had been the one to narate this book for Audible.