Review ♦ Sister Wife

About the Book

I am consumed with impure thoughts.
My head is swirling with stories that would give
the Prophet heart failure if he knew of them.
I fear that I am destined for eternal damnation.

In the isolated rural community of Unity, the people of The Movement live a simple life guided by a set of religious principals and laws that are unique to them. Polygamy is the norm, strict obedience is expected and it is customary for young girls to be assigned to much older husbands.

Celeste was born and raised in Unity, yet she struggles to fit in and to accept her ordained life. At fifteen she is repulsed by the thought of being assigned to an older man and becoming a sister wife. She wants something more for herself but feels powerless to change her destiny because rebelling would bring shame upon her family.

Torn from the headlines and inspired by current events, Sister Wife is a compelling portrait of a community where the laws of the outside world are ignored and where individuality is punished. 


My Thoughts  
By now, you’d have to live under a rock to have missed hearing about the various controversies surrounding polygamy in North America. I think it’s fascinating from a educational point of view. The success that these different sects have is really unbelievable, living completely cut-off from the main-stream as they do. They live in their own self-contained worlds where family and community is of the utmost importance. What one person needs, the entire community is prepared to give. But does being part of a community like this take away your individuality? Is each member given the right to speak their voice, to make their choice? And what happens to the person whose thoughts do not reflect the entire family? Does this make them a traitor to their own community?

Sister, Wife examines these thoughts from three conflicting yet complimentary perspectives. Living within a polygamous sect this story gives voice to three young girls, each with a different opinion on how they think life should be lived and how they hope to live their own lives.

Celeste was born into The Movement and will soon be married into a family made up of one older male and a group of sisters. She will share the role of wife, mother and sister. However, she does not she this as the life for her, she dreams of boys her own age rather than old men. And hopes to experience falling in love, not having her husband chosen for her.

Nanette, a few years younger than Celeste sees The Movements way of life as perfect for her. She is happy that a man has already suggested that he may like her to join his family. The idea of living her life surrounded by sisters with one husband as head of the group to be comforting, perhaps because the presence of the other wives will provide her with a never-ending sense of belonging and safety.

Taviana, is the most interesting character to me. She was born into main-stream society and when she found herself in a bad situation a family from Unity adopted her into The Movement. Because of this she has seen both world’s that are open to her. However, because of her past, she wonders whether she could ever be welcomed into the group truly, as a sister-wife. Living in Unity seems agreeable to her at this point, she is cared for and no longer has to worry about staying safe in the world. Soon though, she must make a decision on where her life will lead.

All in all, Sister, Wife was an enjoyable read. It would definitly be a good way for younger readers to learn more of the situation regarding polygamy. The author has written this book in a way that doesn’t press any underlying opinion on the reader. It was not complicated, which I think makes it a good introduction for kids who are wondering exactly what all the media is buzzing about. It also made me, as an adult reader, feel that I would really like to delve deeper into this topic and take on some more serious non-fiction reading.

Just some thoughts that I jotted after reading – nothing to do with the actual book, but rather the topic.
This book and the subject it covers has been on my mind since finishing it. Specifically how to put aside all my previous thoughts on religions and/or organizations that support/practice polygamy. But then I started thinking about whether my thoughts are influenced by the mass-saturation of media coverage or actual fact. So I did a bit of reading. The conclusion that I came to is that polygamy may not be my thing, but in certain situations I can see that it is a reasonable (remember, my opinion only) way to live. Yes, some women (and men) may not want to live in this type of community but many, find it the perfect way to live. I think with any community safety and quality of life are the main things. Yet, consider last years giant raid in Texas, hundreds of children were taken from loving and safe families to be deposited in foster care/children’s centers, in some cases dangerous/abusive places with strangers who looked down on them and ridiculed them. Afterward, officials returned the children stating only that it was a case of misinformation. A year later some of these children are still suffering from the emotional damage of being protected by the Texas State CPS.  Anyway, polygamy isn’t something new, it goes back thousands of years, I do agree that it should come down to choice – but when it is part of a communities religious belief, that makes it so much harder. If the general public can tell the FLDS that they cannot continue on with their traditions, where does it stop? Either all religions are ruled by the state/governing body or none. It’s a can of worms that I’m glad I don’t have to open.

About The Author

Shelley Hrdlitschka discovered her love for children’s literature while teaching elementary school in the 1980s. Then, while on a parenting leave, she began writing children’s stories. It took ten years, but she eventually decided to focus on juvenile and young adult fiction and is now the author of six award-winning novels, all published with Orca Book Publishers.
Shelley offers school and library presentations on the value of perseverance. She describes the pitfalls she encountered on her path to becoming a published author and discusses where ideas come from using examples from her books. She touches on numerous literary devices, tailored to the age of the audience. Shelley also reads from some of her many rejection letters—the part of the presentation that students seem to like most. She is also available for writing workshops.
Shelley lives in North Vancouver, British Columbia, with her husband, three daughters and menagerie of pets. When she’s not writing, she can be found hiking, sailing, snowshoeing or hidden away with a book and some good music. (Orca Book Publishers Canada)


Title: Sister Wife
Author: Shelley Hrdlitschka
Book Genre: Young Adult Fiction (12+)
Book Type: Trade Paperback 269 pages
Publisher: Orca Books
Publication Date: October 2008

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© 2008-2010 Joanne Mosher of The Book Zombie. All rights reserved.


Anonymous said...

Great review! And thanks for linking to mine.

Taren said...

I want it! It sounds really interesting. Polygamy, for whatever reason, really interests me. In theory, I can understand where you're coming from as far as thinking it's okay in certain situations. It's just that so often, the people involved start getting into legal trouble (welfare fraud, statutory rape, human trafficking, forcing girls into marriage)that it becomes difficult to separate their beliefs from the illegal activities that so many participate in.

Anonymous said...

I just started reading Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer, which is a pretty in-depth literary journalism piece about Mormon fundamentalism. While I'm sure what I think about polygamy, the thing in the book that really disturbs me is the way so many of the girls weren't give a choice about who to marry or when to marry. In some of the situations Krakauer is describing, girls of like 12 were married to men three times their age and then then forced to have children before they should have been grown up themselves.

I'm sure that this isn't true of all polygamists, and it's certainly not exclusive, but it's still very hard to read. I guess this isn't really so much a comment about the book as me thinking a bit about the things you were thinking about too.


E. L. Fay said...

I'm all for freedom of choice too, but I also think that without boundaries, you just have chaos. At what point does an individual or group go too far and you just have to say "enough"?

Dar said...

Great review Joanne, this book sounds fascinating. YOu know it's a hard one to call with polygamy-its a subject that interests me though. When you think of it they live a life unaffected by all the garbage that a lot of us do. However, the one thing that should be different is the young girls being married off long before they should and to men much too old for them. Ultimately people should be given a choice but if they're happy with the way of life they're living, is it wrong? I don't know. It's a subject you could go back and forth on for a long time.

E. L. Fay said...

Yes, but unlike them, we are given CHOICES. Yes, there is a lot of "garbage" in the real world, but there is also education, travel, reading, entertainment, and a million other things these poor girls will always be forbidden from experiencing.

Ladytink_534 said...

Polygamy really icks me out for some reason personally but I don't have a problem with the idea for others if they aren't forced. Like you said, it's all about choice.

Zibilee said...

Great review! I also think that if someone is happy living this lifestyle, who am I to condemn it? I do draw the line at having underage girls married off to much older men and situations where members are forced to stay enveloped in this lifestyle when they would rather not, but if they are content, then I think we should let them be.If you are interested in reading another fictional account of a similar story, I recommend Mr. Wroe's Virgins. It was a great book and gave me a lot to think about.

naida said...

this does sound like an interesting one, great review.
I read Shattered Dreams by Irene Spencer, it dealt with the same topic and it was a moving and inspiring book. She didn't preach her religion either, she just told her story.

Anonymous said...

A must for the MTBR! Great blog you have!

Anna said...

Sounds like an interesting book. The only book I've read dealing with polygamy was The 19th Wife. I don't agree with it, but what doesn't work for me might work for someone else.

Diary of an Eccentric

Anonymous said...

I loved your blog. Thank you.

shooting stars said...

Oh my god loved this book, read it in two days!
i found it so intresting!
and i loved the romance that sprung between jon and celeste.

*** spoiler!

alhough i am sad they dont end up together, but her and craig im sure would be very cute. i do understand, like i wouldnt wanna sleep with a father and son.. kinda awks.

anyways if anyone knows any books similair to this one i would love to read it:)

email me-


i certainly reccomend this book and great review.

Kestral said...

It was a pretty good book - I finished it today :)

The whole premise made me angry though - I almost felt like the characters were brain-washed or something though.

It's an interesting book though :)