Dorothy Allred Solomon has provided an intensely honest, albeit painful, insight into the dark secrets of those who live the Principle of Plural Marriage in the fundamentalist branch of the Church of the Latter Day Saints. The Mormon Church discontinued the practice of plural marriage in 1890, after increasing political pressures.
For many years, the Saints considered it their duty to intermarry, building the religious foundation dictated by Joseph Smith, planting the seed of Eve in their children. Many moved to other countries to avoid prosecution for polygamy, especially Mexico. But Mexico was rarely habitable or hospitable. In 1912, the Mormons fled the revolution of Pancho Villa, scattering across Montana, Utah and Wyoming, fragmenting the extended families of sister-wives and children.
As the twenty-eighth of forty-eight children, the author grew up in an atmosphere beset with fear and scarcity. The early years, when the family gathered to share meals and chores together, became the stuff of memory as the sister-wives and their children endured years of hardship, all to avoid the law and allow their husband his higher calling before God.
Dorothy worshipped a father who was present only part of the time but who remained the center of her world. Even when she chose monogamy for her own marriage, Dorothy's heart remained with her father, Rulon C. Allred, and compulsively rationalized his behavior. This is the great conflict of the book: Dorothy's understanding of the incalculable sufferings of the children of plural marriage, including incest and child abuse, but an abiding love of her father and forgiveness for his human failings. Later, when Rulon was murdered by another fanatical fundamentalist faction of those who lived The Principle, the daughter is thrown into even more conflict.
Most troubling is the effect of plural marriage on the progeny; always illegitimate, on the wrong side of the law, the children are the victims of a harsh manner of living that offers no security or opportunity for future success. Early on, the children learn to shade the truth, to hide their reality from the world, always fearful of the raids that send them scattering into the wilderness.
The author shares some painful truths in Daughter of the Saints, but she can no longer remain silent. Clearly, she is compelled to speak of her childhood and the fundamental principles that so affected her youth. As an adult, she exercises her literary gifts to shed light on the past: "The family orchards are bearing their harvest and some of the fruit is bitter." An excellent, if painful, study of a polygamist society.