Little known fact here - I graduated from Utah State University in 1988 in the ever-so job abundant bachelor's degree in Sociology. Very proud day. I wore my shoulder pad dress cut too tight to take large steps and wore my impractical high heels. Too much make-up, bangs ratted to heaven and far too skinny to be considered anything but a threat to any woman in my age group. I was a force to be reckoned with.
I spent the next two months looking for a job. Proudly, I was hired to be a sales associate (clerk) at JCPenney.
After a year of eating humble pie, I stopped telling people I was a college graduate and I entered a more marketable graduate program. I was much more subdued at my graduation two years later, although my shoes were still impractical.
I had also learned to not take myself so seriously. The robes for a master's degrees have funky sleeves. I stuffed them with treats for my friends and even a copy of Reader's Digest. Ever been to a university graduation? Then you understand.
Sociology was a fun major. I love studying people. I adore studying people more dysfunctional than I am. Eventually I settled into helping people but there's still a corner of my psyche that is fascinated by the weird.
One class I took while at Utah State focused on cults. Although taught by a professor I didn't particularly like, I thought the class would be absolutely fascinating. I registered and bought the textbook, ready to be completely weirded out. I was disappointed.
The chapters were divided up by different cults; Amish, Mennonites, Father Divine, Mormons (we skipped that chapter) and other groups that made me yawn. I guess I misinterpreted the word "cult." Cults were riddled with socially inappropriate behavior and often bloody: Jonestown, Charles Manson, Satan worship, Wicca, anybody who practiced yoga, or felt a drive to go to the bathroom as a harem rather than all by herself.
Even today I find myself reading books that give me the inside scoop on groups of people who live contrary to social mores.
Having spent a couple of years in St. George, I was completely fascinated by the polygamist colony nearby. It was such a closed community that nobody seemed to really know much. They just kept to themselves since the bloody 70's with the rivalry of the LeBarons, Allreds, John Singer, and a few others thrown in. Then it was quiet. Maybe too quiet.
Then a teenage girl ran away from the Kingston Clan. Her father caught her, beat her within an inch of her life and she escaped again. She had taken issue with marrying her old uncle. And so began the delicate dance between polygamy, the attorney general, and law enforcement.
Rena Chynoweth wrote her memoir. She was the 13th wife of Ervil LeBaron. She was the one who actually murdered Rulon Allred in his medical practice. Don't read it. It's a work of garbage.
I also read a memoir by Dorothy Solomon, one of Rulon Allred's daughters. Do read this one. She is a writer and tells the story of being a child of polygamy during a tempestuous time.
I have then read a series of novels that all seem to tell the same story. Interesting at first but they all ended the same. The girl escapes and walks into the sunset. There is also a confusion about mainstream Mormons and poor research yields a poorly written novel.
So I found a book that I wanted to read called "Hidden Wives." The sociologist in me piqued, I wanted to read it so I did, prepared to read the same story with the same ending and possibly written very poorly.
I so enjoyed it! I found a familiar theme but the story had so much more depth! The protagonists' beliefs and thoughts were articulated incredibly well. The authors provided descriptive imagery and I forgot I was reading a book. A particularly poignant scene (?) occurs when one of the characters commits suicide. The symbolism is incredibly beautiful.
The author, Claire Avery, is a pen name for Mari and Michelle, sisters that decided to collaborate on their first novel. Coincidentally, Mari and Michelle grew up in a fundamental Catholic community. I wrote to them and told them how much I appreciated a well written novel that wove symbolism I could understand (without being condescending) into a solid and believable story.
I'm really trying to not provide too many spoilers here, but the ending is not what is expected and the authors include a character or two that provide metaphoric understanding to the experiences. Even if you don't catch the metaphors, the writing is solid and the story is interesting.
The hard part is that I'm the only person I know that has read it so I can't talk to anybody about it. So I decided I'm going to host a giveaway and Mari and Michelle are going to sponsor it. Doesn't this sound fun? (Speaking of socially inappropriate...) Do you know what's even funner? Mari and Michelle don't know about it. Yet.
Isn't this a fun game?
Leave a comment with your email address.
For an extra entry, go onto goodreads.com, find Claire Avery and send her (them) a message with this link or thank them for sponsoring such a fun contest. Remember to make a second comment telling me you did.
Contest ends July 9, 2010
"Claire Avery's" response will be posted.
Readers are highly encouraged to pick up a stick and poke this bear.