Miah Arnold, the author of “Sweet Land Of Bigamy” is not an ex-Mormon but rather the descendants of ex-Mormons. Her great-great-grandmother was a second wife, disowned by her husband when Utah became a state. And so Miah grew up in rural Utah, in a home attached to the Three-Legged Dog Saloon.
The protagonist of “Sweet Land Of Bigamy” is a woman by the name of Helen Motes. Helen is, above all, a survivor. Fatherless and with an alcoholic mother, Helen lived a fractured, poverty-stricken childhood in rural Utah. As a sixteen-year old girl, she met and married an older man, Larry, a solid respectable Mormon. Helens marriage to Larry represented the stability she never experienced growing up. But after ten years of marriage, during which Helen is forced to cope with the pain of infertility, Larry leaves for a two-year stint in Iraq, in full defiance of Helens fears and wishes.
Angry and heart-broken, Helen heads back to her childhood town in hopes of making amends with her alcoholic mother. While there, she meets and falls in love with an Indian poet, who proposes marriage to her before she even has the chance to explain about her husband. Her new lover is full of starry-eyed ideals about the world; through his eyes Helen is able to experience the wide-eyed wonder of childhood that she missed out on. She marries her Indian suitor, expecting to quietly divorce her first husband while her second husband is in India tending to his dying mother. And so Helen finds herself in the awkward position of being a bigamist – a woman married to two men.
Things quickly get very complicated as Helen finds herself unable to sever her emotional attachment to her first husband. These husbands of hers fill two separate voids in her heart. She loves the two of them, both in their own unique way. The plot is original and surprising, with a lot of very unique characters; the people are flawed yet relatable. The author made the wise decision to tell the story from a variety of different perspectives, rather than sticking to the point of view of one woman trying to decide between the two men that she loves. By showing us the story through the eyes of many, the reader is drawn into a deeply textured and vivid portrait of a woman trying to make the best of a difficult circumstance.
This is a story about cobbling together a life out of broken remnants: a fractured childhood, absentee parents, a marriage of necessity, a marriage of impulse. The author does not shy away from the difficult moments but handles them with such grace and such affection for her characters that the result is a truly heart-warming story about the ability of people to stick together in spite of their flaws.
Sweet Land of Bigamy is available in both e-book and hardcover and can be bought atAmazon,Barnes and Noble, as well as your local independent bookstore. I would also urge you to check out theauthor’s webpage, as she is a fantastic writer – her essay“You Owe Me”was recently selected for the Best American Essays of 2012, and is, without a doubt, the best non-fiction essay I have read in a very long time.
Note: This review was originally posted on “A POST-MORMON LIFE”.