Fifty Years in Polygamy
Author: Kristyn Decker
Publisher: Synergy Books Publishing
DISCLOSURE: Unlike the majority of reviews in this blog, I've neither bought this book nor borrowed it from the library. This is a "galley" copy ebook, supplied by Net Galley. I'm not receiving (nor will I expect to receive or accept) remuneration for this review.
This blog has been primarily about fiction, which is what I intended, but in honor of International Women's Day (yeah, I'm a day late and a dollar short - story of my life! Deal with it!) I started reading a story rooted in a topic about which I care very much: the subjugation of women and the abuse of children by religion. Kristyn Decker is the daughter of a "polygamist prophet". She was pretty much trapped in a religious cult (all religions are cults in my book no matter how mainstream they are), so I'm pleased to have a chance to read this and help expose this, well, let's call it what it is - crime - of the abuse of women and of children.
Kristyn Decker, when she went by the name of Sophia Allred, was born into a rather clannish family of cult followers in one small branch of the highly sectarian Mormon church. The abject failure of the church is explicit in how many sub-cults it has spawned since Joseph Smith died, and this same sectarianism is rife throughout all religions, including the big three monotheistic religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Indeed, Christianity has spawned well-over twenty thousand sects since the first century - that's very nearly a new splintering of the "one true faith" every single month since it began. That's how worthless it is. The very fact that there is no one true religion is proof positive that there is no true god. Kristyn's life was one of abuse and of rape, and of the wholesale marginalization and demeaning of women which went on for decade after decade in her direct experience.
I did have some technical issues with this book. The first problem I ran into is the same kind of poorly-formatted ebook issue I've been encountering with every other ebook I've read this month. This book is not formatted for the Kindle. The contents, rather than showing a single (or even a double) column of chapter headings are all jumbled together into one continuous paragraph, which actively prevents a reader from reaching the beginning of the book proper! When I touch the right side of the screen to move to the next screen, I'm hitting some chapter heading and I'm transported directly to chapter thirty-nine or whatever! When I hit 'Beginning' to return to the start of the book and try again, I'm right back at the introduction, and I have to wade through six screens again only to find myself right back at the contents!
Fortunately Kindle also allows you to slide your finger, rather like slipping a page over, so I got by that way, but this was bad formatting, which is annoying at the very least and not a good start to a book I'm supposed to be reviewing! The Adobe reader version was fine, and even showed the few gray-scale illustrations, but the Kindle version showed only dark gray rectangles where the images should be.
Another minor bitch: if I'm in possession of the ebook, then I really don't need a couple of screens of book recommendations to wade through from people I don't even know and therefore cannot rely on for a recommendation! I'm already planning on reading it otherwise why would I even have the ebook? This isn't smart thinking. Why would I need a recommendation which conveys nothing to me? I don't actually see the point of those in a print book for that matter, but I could argue that there's more point there than ever there could be in an ebook. You cannot leaf through an ebook in the store to see these recommendations or to get a feel for how it reads. Indeed, you cannot leaf through an ebook unless you already bought it! Seriously, I do not think publishers have even begun to catch up with what ebooks are all about. They're still thinking in terms of print books. Just saying!
So finally I get to start reading it and at 483 pages, it's a bit TMI for my taste. For me there was far too many unappealing details of everyday activity. The history went back to well before Kristyn was born. The problem with that, for me, is that I didn't ask to read this for her family tree, but for what happened to Kristyn herself. Having said that, let me get to the meat of the project: hidden amongst the mundane - and it was truly worth searching for, especially if you mistakenly harbor a benign view of religion - were some truly horrific revelations which might be too graphic for some readers (it was the uncensored version which I read), and this is what, for me, made it worthwhile wading through the tedious parts.
This was a no-holds-barred, no-punches-pulled story of what a religious cult can do to young children and to women, and it's depressing at best and horrific at worst. This isn't a story of something religion did during the crusades or the inquisition, awful as those things alone were. It's something truly horrific which was done - and continues to be done - in the lifetimes of anyone who might read this. It's going on right now, somewhere. I'm already well aware of how evil organized religion is, so much of this did not actually come as a shock or a surprise to me. Indeed, the only truly surprising thing to me was how people can cling to a belief in a benign god when these horrors happen not rarely, but routinely and on a daily basis. It was disturbing and it was sick, just as such a god would be if there were one, but this is the information that needs to get out, and which needs to keep coming out until organized religion dies the natural death that it's long overdue. I recommend this book.