Sunday, November 8, 2009

review: cult insanity by irene spencer

In Cult Insanity, Irene Spencer describes life with the LeBaron family at their polygamist colony in Mexico. At sixteen, Irene married one of the LeBaron brothers (who was already married to her half-sister) against her parents’ wishes. Her parents were not against the marriage for the reason many parents would be; they were polygamists as well and had no problem with the teenaged Irene marrying her sister's husband. Irene married Verlan in secret because her family felt the LeBarons were insane and didn't want any more associations with them.

From the title, I assumed the author was declaring all followers of fundamental Mormonism to be insane followers of a cult. That's not the impression I ended up with as I read the book. It seems she determined her parents had been right about insanity running in the LeBaron family and that it was the LeBaron factions that were cults. Polygamy is never really condemned although she is now in a monogamous relationship. I have to wonder if she would've ever left had her first husband not died. I felt this even more when I read about the time in Dallas where Irene gained some independence. She concludes the chapter on that part of her life with this, "I felt it my God-given duty to call Verlan and have him come rescue all of us before three more wives abandoned him."

Cult Insanity is not particularly well-written (though one must not entirely fault the author who stopped attending school at ninth grade). It lacks cohesiveness and likely would've read better as separate essays since it jumps around in time so much. While I appreciated the family tree for Ervil, I definitely could've used one for the entire compound. There were so many people who lived there (many with the same or similar names) who intermarried so many times that it was hard to keep them all straight. At any given moment while reading the book, I couldn't say for certain how many sister-wives Irene had.

1 comment:

  1. I read this book too. I thought it was interesting, but also disturbing with the things that the author thought were normal.