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Publisher's Summary

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.

What listeners say about Secrets and Wives

Average Customer Ratings
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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

Hard listen and not that interesting

If you could sum up Secrets and Wives in three words, what would they be?

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.

Would you recommend Secrets and Wives to your friends? Why or why not?

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.

How could the performance have been better?

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.

What’s the most interesting tidbit you’ve picked up from this book?

I didn't really learn anything from this book that hasn't already been published in newspapers or magazines.

4 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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Mormon exposure

What made the experience of listening to Secrets and Wives the most enjoyable?

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.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

A Church only A Man Could Love

Any additional comments?

Great book, no bias, no one sided thought, very informative.

6 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Great stories (+), religious amateur hour (-)

Any additional comments?

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.

8 people found this helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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FLDS Obsessed

I could not complete this book. I had to “put it down” several times as I felt it was written poorly, performed poorly, and lacking any feeling. If you are into learning about cults/different religions DO NOT read this book. It’s fact based - and as far as I can tell all facts are accurate - but it’s so oddly and poorly done. A waste of my time.

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what a great book.

I grew up out there. boy did you nail it. it's funny to hear from a outsider view. I'm not polygamist. I was raised around them it was normal. until I started getting pressured to marry into it. not for me I went wild for a few years. kinda crazy like. didn't relize until I moved back east. and relized. even not in polygamy. you are brainwashed from birth. it took me many years to get to a normal in my life. for the most part they are very good loving people. they have just been brainwashed. don't know any different. you did an amazing job of showing that. had to chuckle a few times. knowing you changed names of people. 😂 I'm not sure I believe in God anymore. but I do know something special made the beautiful country out there.

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Skewed inaccurate information

I was interested, and excited about this book. But the author has no idea what he is talking about. “Facts/historical claims” are completely skewed. not just the controversial things... but simple well known things. If you can’t get those right why would anyone listen any further. Also the tone taken is very snarky trying to get you to see the information in a very bias view without a chance to form it yourself. Awful!!!

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just great, really

I was expecting , something more tame, maybe monotone, reading of the authors factual research, chapter after chapter. ( I don't mind that way actually, even though this was something completely different).
I found information in here, about groups, I had never heard of. not only was most all of the info fresh to me, but I was very pleasantly surprised and greatly pleased with the authors style, take and humor. he shared his journey in a way I wasn't expecting. I laughed often at his take on things and say I saw eye to eye with his thoughts. he seemed respectful and fair. and I can appreciate his curiosity with these issues. I get it, it's why I read books about this stuff. I find it crazy and interesting and like that he doesn't judge the people he writes about but calls a spade a spade .
usually I will make fun of authors who read their own books, but I'm glad it was him reading. you got a real sense of who he was from him performance and it was great. I loved the book, appreciate his work and take, and pleasantly surprised by his writing style and hence forth will be a fan. good read. loved it

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Well done

Well researched deep dive into the lives of polygamy. While there are many books about the ravages of polygamist communities written by the victims; this read is from an outsiders desire to explore the why and the how of polygamy. A marvellous Audible listen with narration by the author. It is thorough, entertaining and compelling.

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GREAT inside stories of different polygamist group

I absolutely LOVED this book from beginning to end. Sanjiv did such an amazing job both writing and narrating. The book is well written from a 3rd party view, not biased and full of great insight. This is the 6th book I've listened to on the subject, all of which are first hand accounts minus this one, and this was by far the most informational!! I laughed, cried and enjoyed this book from beginning to end! GREAT JOB SANJIV!!

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Why?!

I was very interested in this book. It seems well written but I just could not make it through the audio. The male narrator really really really should not speak in a cartoony high voice to try mimic the females interviewed. And there are a lot of them. I don't know why no one advised him against this. It was unbearable

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  • Ann D
  • 01-15-16

Interesting and perfectly read.

What about Sanjiv Bhattacharya’s performance did you like?

He had a great, relaxed style. He could have been telling the story to a group of friends late in the evening.

Any additional comments?

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.

4 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Mrs P. Clarke
  • 09-14-20

Fascinating content, a new insight.

This book gives new windows into this controversial subject. From the apocalyptic to the mundane, all told with (mostly) respect and compassion.
I always prefer when the book is read by the author (notably Mel Robbins) and this book would be 5*s for me, if not for the accents attributed to the 'characters' in the stories. For some reason (apparently) all polygamists living in Utah etc have regional British accents ranging from Cockney to Generic West Country and the women are straight out of Monty Python. It pulled me straight out of the narrative each time, a distraction.

1 person found this helpful