Monday, May 19, 2014

Comparison Review: Love Times Three and Becoming Sister Wives

Love Times Three: Our True Story of a Polygamous Marriage by  Joe, Alina, Vicki, and Valerie Darger
Publisher: HarperCollins
Date: September 2011
Source: purchased used

Becoming Sister Wives: The Story of an Unconventional Marriage by Kody, Meri, Janelle, Christine, and Robyn Brown
Publisher: Gallery Books
Date: May 2012
Source: purchased used

Background: I read both of these for a research paper on alternative marriage practices in Christian New Religious Movements. Both the Browns and the Dargers are fundamentalist Mormons. They are NOT part of the FLDS; indeed, both families were prompted to open up about their lifestyle following the 2008 raid on the FLDS compound to show how the FLDS does not stand for all modern polygamous Mormons. The Dargers are Independent, while the Browns appear to belong to some unspecified fundamentalist church. The Dargers have done various television appearances in the past, while the Browns are well-known for their TV show Sister Wives (of which I watched the first season or two last year).

Both family memoirs were interesting. They give brief backgrounds for each spouse, then describe everyone's courtships, marriages, parenting, current home life, and reasons for/effects of publicly coming out as polygamous. The Dargers also include some narratives from their oldest children. The point of these books is mostly to discuss the authors' relationship and family values, as well as to establish the families as otherwise normal, despite their unusual marriage system. There's not much on the religious principles underlying polygamy (though there is much mention of how strong, spiritually and otherwise, a community theirs is). Also, to anyone expecting salacious details, discussion of sex lives is never, ever going to crop up.

The dynamics of the family are so different between the Dargers and the Browns. The Dargers appear to have the perfect relationship - not much jealousy and drama. Their courtships were significantly different from those of the Browns, though, as Alina and Vicki courted and married Joe at the same time, and Vicki's twin sister Valerie later joined the family after divorcing her first husband. Either the Browns are more honest, or their marriage has just had a lot more issues, especially with the sister wives getting along. Still, both families' emphases on building lasting relationships with spouses and establishing strong family bonds are to be commended and can provide models for non-polygamous, non-Mormon individuals and families as well.

The Dargers' book stayed interesting to me the whole time. The Browns', not so much. Once I got to the last third or so of the book, mostly about how they run their household and stuff, it got more boring. How the spouses decided to practice plural marriage and went about courting was far more fascinating. Also, with the Browns I was already more familiar with some of the details about their family now from watching the TV show. Anyway, both of these books were enjoyable and informative reads overall, and I think it will be interesting to see how these families grow and how public views on polygamy change in upcoming years.