Sisterwives Paperback – 19 Oct 2011
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This a delicately woven story about life in an alternative community and I really enjoyed the fresh, unique voice.
At first glance the isolated world of Marah that Connor creates is reminiscent of Amish or Quaker communities, and is attractive in its purity and simplicity, spurning the greed, ugliness and persecution of the urban society of Lot. But this is an illusion, conjured in part by the glacial beauty of the language and the tender descriptions of everyday tasks and rituals. For beneath the surface of this apparently tranquil tribe that is guided by love and trust, lies deception and hidden truths.
This is a novel about faith, and those that follow, and what happens when that faith is challenged, either externally or from within. Tobias, the glassblower and son of community founder and leader, mixes with the outside world, trading his wares for essentials the community cannot provide for themselves. He doubts the wisdom of his preordained destiny - that of Elder, like his father, and flirts with the idea of a possible future outside Marah. Rebecca longs for another child, and although she knows it is their way the arrival of Amarantha in the marriage unsettles her and her faith. In a moving twist it is restored by the very woman who disturbed it in the first place. Amarantha's absent mother Frannia's faith rests on quick sand from the outset and group founder Goran's faith is revealed to have been forged out of desperation, rage and pride.
Sisterwives looks at polygamy, shared love, and the corrosive impact it has on those concerned, though Connor suggests that it is not necessarily all bad, and there may be something to be gained, especially for women.
An intelligent, thought-provoking, beautifully written book, full of moments of great insight and sensitivity, Sisterwives takes on challenging themes and avoids simplistic answers. I will be looking out for Rachel Connor's next offering.
I am very much looking forward to Connor's next novel.
I don't do this often but I have added this book to my "must read again" list.
I have two criticisms. The first is the larger, and it is not of the writing but of the publishing. I am sad to criticise community publishing, but Crocus/Commonword - a long-established and reputable firm - have let this new writer down, with amateur page-design and poor proof-reading. The second is perhaps best put as advice to Rachel Connor for her next novel: stay a little longer with the darker aspects of your characters and plot, and don't try to tie up the loose ends too neatly.