Shattered Dreams: A Memoir

Shattered Dreams: My Life as a Polygamist’s Wife: A Memoir by Irene Spencer, 2007

Chapter One begins: “As we were growing up, polygamy was the ruling tenet of our lives. This “Celestial Law” was so integral to who we were and what we were trying to accomplish that most often, we referred to it simply as ‘the Principle’. Everything else we were to do or not do, be or not be (a great deal, as it turns out) was ancillary to this: men were to have as many wives and as many children as they possibly could during the few years they walked this Earth. It was upon the conclusion of those trying, earthly years that we would all reap the divine rewards for our obedience to the Principle” (7).

This book is about Irene Spencer’s time growing up as the fourth child of her father’s second wife, and how they grew up very poor because her father drank and could not make enough money to support his (eventually) six wives. Irene’s mother ends up remarrying a monogamist who is also an abuser. Irene herself had the opportunity to marry for love and monogamy when she was 15, but instead, felt the Lord tell her that she should become the second wife of a polygamist who lived part of the time in Mexico (because the US government had cracked down a bit on polygamy).

Irene became pregnant every time her husband was willing to be intimate with her (which became a stretch – eventually he had collected at least nine wives, most of which ended up divorcing from him, after they’d given him about 56 living children total). She gave birth to 13 children, and then adopted a child as well. Her first baby, a girl named Leah, died soon after she was born. They didn’t know why. (Could it have been a heart defect? Just curious.) She wished they could just have intimate relations just for fun (and use birth control), but just about every time they did, she got pregnant.

All through the book, you can feel the author’s frustration with having to share her husband with all of these other women and children. There was also never enough money to go around, even in Mexico. Irene leaves him a few times, but then of course, her husband threatened that she would never see her kids again. Finally, after twenty-some years of marriage, her husband died. It seems it was a release for her. She could finally live for herself and her children. She remarried a monogamist, and they seem devoted to each other.

I recommend this book. It was quite an education for me!