Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Review: The Sister Wife

Summary: What if the man you loved told you God wanted him to take another wife? What if that woman was your best friend? Set in the heart of the earliest days of a new nineteenth-century sect known as the Saints, The Sister Wife is a riveting account of two women forced into a practice they don't understand, bound by their devotion to Prophet Joseph Smith. When Mary Rose marries Gabriel, neither of them could foresee how quickly the community would turn to the practice of plural marriage. Devastated when Gabe is faced with an order from the Prophet to marry her best friend, Bronwyn, Mary Rose tries to have the faith to carry through with the marriage. But can she really be married to the same man as her very best friend? Can Mary Rose and Bronwyn face betraying both their husband and their God to do what they feel is right? -- Avon Inspire

I always love to participate in Book Club Girl's BlogTalk radio shows! So I decided to request THE SISTER WIFE: BRIDES OF GABRIEL BOOK 1 by Diane Noble in preparation for her upcoming show. I have to admit that I didn't really read the description of the novel too closely, but I figured that any book about sister wives would be interesting. I can't imagine "sharing" a husband (plus I'm a pretty big fan of the show Big Love.)

I'm pretty sure that I wouldn't have picked up this book if it weren't for Book Club Girl's show. I didn't hate it, but to be honest, I'm not sure that it appealed to me. While I do enjoy historical fiction and some Christian fiction, I'm not a big fan of romance books. And I thought THE SISTER WIFE had a fair amount of romance in it. I was actually looking for a little more historical fiction and a little less romance, but that's just me and my taste.

Besides the romance, I did have a little bit of a problem accepting some of the things that took place in the story. I realize that when I read romance-type books that I need to suspend some of my reality (I guess I'm just not a romantic person.) I could get past the love-at-first-site between Gabriel and Mary Rose, but I did have an issue with how quickly Gabriel embraced the Mormon religion. I also thought it was hard to believe how quickly Mary Rose, a wealthy young English woman, adjusted to her new home and community in the United States.

Having said all of that, there were some things that I definitely appreciated about this novel. I really did like a few of the characters, especially Mary Rose. At the beginning of the novel, she showed so much strength and she had such a spark to her personality. I loved that she was willing to stand up to men for what she believed and that she followed her heart. However, I feel like all of her strengths kind of disappeared by the end of the novel. I realize that she was in a bind and didn't really have options, but I guess I just wanted her to be able to do something more. I found her entire situation to be so sad and my heart just broke for her.

Bronwyn was also an interesting (and very likable) character. She was definitely thrown into a difficult situation after her husband died, and I have to admit that I did feel a great deal of compassion towards her character. I really didn't see how she could have done anything differently and I know she loved Mary Rose like a sister, but I still hated what happened! I felt bad for Bronwyn, but I felt worse for Mary Rose.

I did find many of the historical aspects of this novel to be fascinating. I admit to knowing little about the Mormon faith, but I'm not entirely sure that I should be taking all of my lessons from this novel. (I have a feeling that there are a lot of other sides to this story!) I appreciated that Ms. Noble researched not only the origins of the Mormon faith, but also some American history of the mid 1800s.

I also found interesting some of the themes that the author presented in this book. I think Ms. Noble did a great job of asking some very difficult questions about faith, commitment, and friendship. As I read this novel, I really did try to put myself in both Mary Rose's and Bronwyn's shoes; and I have to admit that I wasn't able to see things as they did. Of course, there is no possible way I could even understand their situations given my religious beliefs as well as the time period I live in.

THE SISTER BRIDE is the first book in the Brides of Gabriel series. Even though the book didn't really appeal to me, I have to admit that I'm more than a little curious about what happens between the characters and especially the sister wives. I have a feeling that a good portion of THE SISTER BRIDE was written to set up the story for the following novels, so the future books might be more to my liking. In addition, there were definitely some open-ended issues that I'm anxious to see how the author resolves.

I do think THE SISTER WIFE will appeal to many women, and I think it would make an interesting book club discussion for some groups. There is a reading guide available with many thought-provoking questions. These questions caused me to think more about the novel, but also to look more closely at some of my personal views. There are many interesting themes to discuss in this book including miracles, faith, marriage, love, trust, acceptance, heaven, relationships, friendships, and beliefs.

Book Club Girl will welcoming Ms. Noble on Thursday, July 8th, to Book Club Girl on Air to discuss her novel, THE SISTER WIFE. I will unfortunately be out of town and unable to listen to the show live, but you can set your reminder for the show here. I have already submitted some questions that I hope Ms. Noble will answer. I have a feeling that this show is going to be extremely interesting.

While THE SISTER WIFE isn't really a book that I would normally read, I did find parts of it to be extremely interesting. I recommend it if you are looking for a book about faith and marriage, or if you enjoy historical fiction with lots of romance.

Thanks to Book Club Girl for sending me a copy of this novel.


rhapsodyinbooks said...

It's interesting that not only does the plot sound a lot like The 19th Wife, but the picture on the cover is similar!!!

bermudaonion said...

I wasn't crazy about this book either - it was a little too sweet for me.

Sandy Nawrot said...

Heh heh heh (that is my evil chuckle). You don't want to know what my response would have been had my husband said that God wanted him to have multiple wives. It would have been ugly. Which is why I always wake up thankful I was born when I was, not way back then. I'm not sure this, along with knowing that it is sweet, is something I'm interested in. But still it is great review! The book clubs would have a field day with it.

Jo-Jo said...

Thanks for the review Julie. I'm thinking that I wouldn't enjoy this one either. I read Where Grace Abides a couple of months ago with my book group that turned out to be an Amish romance but it was just way too over the top for me.

pinkflipflops said...

i pretty much find any book about sister wives to be interesting!

thebluestockingsociety said...

I too tend to like just a hint of romance in my books. Sorry this wasn't better for you.

Jessica @ The Bluestocking Society

Beth F said...

I was sorry I requested a copy of this. I like polygamy stories (I too am a fan of Big Love), but this one just didn't grab me. I didn't finish it.

Jennifer said...

The idea of a romance novel about plural marriage does not appeal to me in the least. It kind of turns mys stomach. I'm glad that you read this first. LOL!