Monday 28 July 2014

Review ~ Wife Number Seven by Melissa Brown

Reviewed by Donna ~ 4 Stars

“Instead, I’m wife number seven. My husband shares my bed one night a week. And although I don’t love him, not in the way I’d always hoped I’d love the man I’m bound to for eternity, I find myself dreading the moment he walks out my bedroom door every seven days. My existence is a lonely one. Lehi relieves that loneliness for the twenty-four hours when I pretend I’m the only one he lays with. And I do pretend. Every waking hour.”

We have all seen it on the news, read about it and even seen it on reality TV shows but have you ever truly wondered what really goes on in these polygamist cults/compounds, well wonder no more as Melissa Brown goes there. This is a compound whereby the husbands can have as many wives as “The Prophet” deems and The Prophet receives all his instructions/visions from The Lord. Yes this does have some religion in it, but is by no means the crux of the story; please do not be deterred from reading because of the religion aspect, because this story is so much more than that.

Brinley was 19 years old when The Prophet assigned her to one of the Elders, they were soon married and she became “Wife Number Seven,” the seventh wife of the Elder Lehi. Every girl really wants to be the first wife but beggars cannot be choosers and you have to abide by what The Prophet dictates. Brinley’s home is managed by the Elders first wife and each wife has to conform to what the Elder and The Prophet expects, keep the Elder happy, the home running smoothly and birth the Elders children. Seven wives equate to a lot of children in the house, a lot of mouths to feed, a lot of laundry to do and the money has to stretch. Each wife has their chores to do, their roles to play and they each have an allocated night to “service” their Elder. When the Elder you are married too is 50 years old you can understand Brinley’s reticence and the fact that she doesn’t love her husband and that she will do whatever she can to avoid getting pregnant. Contraception is not tolerated at all in the compound and it takes a savvy Brinley to be able to obtain what she needs. Her cousin left the compound years ago and works in a health centre so when Brinley is sent on her errands she diverts to the centre, gets her months’ supply and has to hide them away. Three years later, not having conceived, the wives feel sorry for her but only Brinley knows the truth. She wants more from life, she wants a proper husband, a proper relationship, she wants to love and be loved, but can she get it?

“I, however, was not. As far as anyone could see, I was an obedient, even-tempered, and loyal wife. I helped with the cooking, the cleaning, and the child-rearing. I’d never tried to secretly cut my hair or wear the color red. But I had my secrets. A voice inside told me I didn’t belong here, that there was another life waiting for me. And with each passing year, that voice became louder.”
It is on one of her errand runs that she literally runs into Porter Hammond, he was exiled from his family and the compound years back for being a “bad boy,” most people would have just seen him as a normal teenager but because so many of his “crimes” went against the rules set by The Prophet his family was ordered to remove him. Now high on drugs and struggling to survive, he steals Brinley’s purse, causing her no end of problems. Brinley recognises him and after doing a bit of detective work she finds out where he is living, determined to get her purse back and its contents she goes to Porter’s house. Will she get more than she bargained for when she gets there? They had this connection as children and it seems that connection has not disappeared. Can Porter be the reason and the man that Brinley needs to make the hardest decision she will ever have to make? Leave the only life she has known, go against her beliefs and actually break free and obtain what she has always wanted? The journey will not be easy…

I must admit I was wary to begin with as to whether this could be something I could read, but after reading the first few pages I was totally sucked in. Whether it is curiosity, I cannot say, but my interest was piqued. While reading you do get angry with what the wives have to do and are expected to do, but you also have to tell yourself that this is all they have ever known, they know no different. To them this is what life is all about and you just get on and deal. It becomes apparent early on that Brinley is no lamb, she is her own person, she has her own beliefs all she needs now is the backbone to go out and desperately grasp what she has always wanted.

I also want to point out that this is by no means a love triangle, yes Brinley is “married” but even in a polygamist culture only the first wife is legally wed to the Elder, the other wives are assigned and have a ceremony to “celebrate” their union. The wives have no say at all as to who they will be assigned to, and for a 19 year old girl to be assigned to a 50 year old man, is just wrong. She has never ever loved her “husband.” Therefore her relationship with Porter is what in my mind I have deemed her one and only proper relationship.

This is definitely a thought provoking book, one that will leave you thinking about it for days after. Yes it is a tough read, but it is also a beautiful love story. Sacrifices made in the name of love, going against all your beliefs, extracting yourself from a sheltered life and upbringing and taking yourself to the outside. Learning to live a whole new life, with freedom that you have never had, an opinion that you could never voice, and aspirations that were always snuffed out before they could even take flight. It is tough, but it is a compelling read, one that kept me page turning until I had read The End. 

I am no expert by any means so whether this is a true representation, I don’t know, but I can honestly say, it is believable. I can see this happening as much as it pains me to say it and I feel that Melissa Brown has done a brilliant job in conveying this story.

Give it a try, even if it is outside of your comfort zone, this is a story that deserves to read, I did and I don’t regret it at all.

“I would be the first.
I would be the only.
And I would never share.”

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