A couple of weeks ago, I told a group of people that I was reading a book about a polygamist cult. (I had a good reason. Kind of.) And the reactions varied from disbelief to horrified.
That’s a little about how I felt about this memoir. Though The Polygamist’s Daughter by Anne LeBaron contains the kinds of stories you might see on a crime drama on television, this was her real-life childhood as the daughter of notorious polygamist Ervil LeBaron. (Disclaimer: I received a free copy of the book through the Tyndale Blog Network. My opinion reflected in this review is not affected by that.)
If this was a novel, I would have found it thrilling. A page-turner. But because this actually happened to a child, I hovered between sadness and despair. Anna LeBaron recounts tales of last-minute moves from one state to another, leaving everything behind, being dropped off in Mexico to stay with other members of her father’s cult and having to sell things door-to-door to earn money for the family. She is often separated from her mother and rarely sees her father. She is surrounded by people who are related to her in some way. (The book begins: “At age nine, I had forty-nine siblings.) There are moments of peace and relative security, but much of her stories are full of longing for a normal life.
The good news of Anna’s story is that she is now a living, breathing picture of the redemptive work of God. She found family and Jesus and monogamy. She was even able to reconnect with some of her larger extended family in adulthood. Hers is an incredible story, yes. It’s also one of hope. Though she grew up one of many children, overlooked and forgotten, she became a woman known and loved by God.
It is not an easy read, especially if you have young children and can’t imagine dropping them off in another country and leaving them in the care of virtual strangers. But it’s a worthwhile read to know that no matter how awful life’s circumstances, God can work with them and in them to bring about something beautiful.
Telling this story is so brave. And it’s so necessary. Don’t let it scare you to read about Anna’s life.