Claire Avery, “Hidden Wives”

Forge Books; us.macmillan.com/hiddenwivesRachel and Sara Shaw are best friends, half-sisters and members of a severe polygamous sect known as the Blood of the Lamb. As the two girls prepare to be wed, one to her uncle and the other to the community’s sinister leader, Prophet Silver, they begin to question the paths their lives are taking.

Sara, gawky and plain, thirsts for knowledge and dreams of escaping her abusive household; Rachel is beautiful and a deep believer in her faith – at least until she meets a newcomer, one who forces her to question her future within the sect. Hidden Wives is an intense and disturbing look at the cruelty two girls are forced to endure.

Plot Overview: Victimization, Ignorance and Freedom

Sara Shaw is a girl suffocating in her own life. Her parents have transferred her from the local public school – her personal sanctuary – to the sect’s religious school, and Prophet Silver has decided that she will be bound in a celestial marriage to her uncle. Terrified of having deformed children and of being trapped in a loveless relationship, Sara plans to escape. With the help of her secret friend, Irvin, a quirky African-American boy with a speech impediment, Sara will take her first terrifying steps towards freedom.

Well-known throughout the small Blood of the Lamb community, Rachel is a stunning girl. Complementing her beauty is her natural kindness and optimistic spirit; unfortunately, these qualities make her vulnerable, particularly to the predatory men in her life. When she meets Luke, a new member who questions the legitimacy of the faith, Rachel finds herself struggling to negotiate her own beliefs with his. For Rachel, true love should conquer all, but in the Blood of the Lamb sect, can such love even exist?

Criticisms and Compliments

Hidden Wives is difficult book to read; although the subject matter is interesting and trendy, the graphic descriptions of incest, molestation and abuse are deeply disturbing. For a book describing a polygamous sect called Blood of the Lamb, Hidden Wives certainly offers up its two protagonists as the proverbial sacrifices. Innocent teen girls Sara and Rachel are just on the brink of womanhood, yet they are forced to view themselves as objects, victims subject to the whimsies of men. In this particular sect, women are vessels with no individuality or freedom to call their own. Their duty is to bear children and be at the beck and call of their husbands. It is, frankly, a sad way to live.

Although Claire Avery – the pseudonym of two sisters – paints a bleak story, her characters are well-drawn and appealing, especially Sara; as a non-believer and skeptic, she provides the voice of reason for the novel, putting the seemingly outrageous plot in perspective. Moreover, it is clear that Avery has done her homework as the descriptions of the Blood of the Lamb rituals and ways of life are vivid.

Hidden Wives is not a light-hearted read and should not be approached as merely an inside look at a polygamous sect. Rather, it is an unsettling exploration of the horrific actions people make in the name of faith.

Source:

  • Avery, Claire. Hidden Wives. Forge Books, 2010 ISBN 9780765326898

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