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Secrets and Wives  By  cover art

Secrets and Wives

By: Sanjiv Bhattacharya
Narrated by: Sanjiv Bhattacharya
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Publisher's Summary

What do we really know about modern practicing polygamists - not fictional ones like the Henrickson family on HBO’s Big Love? We’ve seen the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in the news, the underage brides in pioneer dresses on a Texas ranch. But the FLDS is just one of many groups that have broken with mainstream Mormonism to follow those parts of Joseph Smith’s doctrine disavowed by the LDS Church.

Gaining unprecedented access to these communities, journalist Sanjiv Bhattacharya reveals a shadow country teeming with small town messiahs, dark secrets, and stories both heartbreaking and strange. Polygamy’s dark side - incest, forced marriages, and physical abuse - is laid bare. But Bhattacharya also finds warmth in the fundamentalist diaspora and even finds himself taking an ideological stand for polygamy’s legalization.

More than just an exposé of Mormon polygamy, Secrets and Wives is the personal journey of a foreign atheist and liberal, a stranger in a strange land who grapples with hard questions about marriage, monogamy, and the very nature of faith.

©2011 Sajiv Bhattacharya (P)2013 Audible, Inc.

What listeners say about Secrets and Wives

Average Customer Ratings
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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Great stories (+), religious amateur hour (-)

Any additional comments?

This book is an interesting travelogue of Sanjiv's interactions with some very colorful personalities within the various polygamous groups in Utah as well as those who have left (escaped) the culture. While the stories are fascinating at times, most of the experiences that Sanjiv chooses to focus on are full of abuse and neglect and are at their core quite depressing. Sanjiv lightens the mood through humorous jabs at his subjects, their towns, and especially their faith. I strongly prefer audio books to be professionally narrated (not performed by the author) but it really worked in this case. It is like Sanjiv is telling you all of these crazy experiences over dinner complete with his endearing British accent. 5 stars for the narration.

My problems with Sanjiv's book and the reason why I gave the story only 3 stars are twofold. First, he is obnoxiously dismissive and mocking of the Mormon religion. I am active LDS. It doesn't bother me at all if people disagree with the tenets of the faith or poke fun at the idiosyncrasies of Mormons as a subculture. I'm cool with that, I think that Mormons are funny too. But if Sanjiv is going to call Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon a fraud and mock them mercilessly throughout the book, he better do his homework. His "teardown" of the faith was religious amateur hour and a book this long deserved a little more rigor than that. He seems to have given no serious consideration to the other side of the argument at all. In the end, the tone of the book was that of a smug, liberal atheist from LA swooping in to mock and disparage religious conservatives in small town Utah.

My second problem with the book is that Sanjiv really drills in when he finds abuse, oddities and "dirt" but seems uninterested in the truly happy families. When he meets wonderful people at Centennial Park and The Rock he simply says that they are great and then he talks about the flies or Bollywood flicks and curry. After seeing all of the problems in polygamy, why didn't these examples spark more intellectual curiosity? What are these people doing right? Aren't the positive cases as intellectually interesting and deserving as the scandalous ones? Apparently not for Sanjiv who seems more interested in proving a point (polygamy is evil) than understanding a multi-faceted issue. Sanjiv likes incest, abuse, intrigue, and suspense. But throw a happy community in his path and he doesn't know what to do with it. The snarky atheist quickly runs out of questions. Uh...more banana bread, please? I do agree with Sanjiv that polygamy should be decriminalized, just don't expect him to be fair and balanced.

All that said, it was still worth the price of admission.

10 people found this helpful

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Mormon exposure

What made the experience of listening to Secrets and Wives the most enjoyable?

The fact that the author hit the name on its polygamist head. I grew up with a family of LDS I cannot say any religion on this planet is as harmful to women esecially in America.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

A Church only A Man Could Love

Any additional comments?

Great book, no bias, no one sided thought, very informative.

6 people found this helpful

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Hard listen and not that interesting

If you could sum up Secrets and Wives in three words, what would they be?

If you have already kept up with the news stories and court cases of polygamy over the last ten years then you will probably find this book boring and tedious. I think this book would be an interesting read for people outside the USA.

Would you recommend Secrets and Wives to your friends? Why or why not?

I would recommend the print version over the audio version. If someone is not at all familiar with the different polygamous groups in the USA, this book might be interesting.

How could the performance have been better?

The narration was not good. I understand that the author is from the UK, but his attempts at Utah accents are just so bad they are comical. Definitely should have had someone else read the book if he was targeting an American audience.

What’s the most interesting tidbit you’ve picked up from this book?

I didn't really learn anything from this book that hasn't already been published in newspapers or magazines.

4 people found this helpful

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Up Close and Personal with Mormon Polygamists

A London East-Ender, fresh off the boat with an Esquire magazine press pass,  goes to Utah to get up close and personal with Mormon polygamists. They proceed to take him into their homes like he’s the first person they ever felt like talking to.

I’ll never know exactly how Sanjiv Bhattacharya charmed or talked the fundamentalists into it, but his narration of his exposé gives you a clue: he is a born natural, a charismatic, a comic, and a raconteur like few others. 

Sanjiv was BORN to do this, truly.

3 people found this helpful

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Author incapable of handling this subject

Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

Not recommended, unless the reader can see how the author's leftism and atheism renders him blind and dumb to the ultimate truth (Jesus Christ).

The problem with Secrets and Wives is not that it exposes much of the terribly destructive insanity of polygamy, as has been practiced by the FLDS and other Mormon sects. That’s a good thing... to the extent the author, Sanjiv Bhattacharya, does so, at least out of one side of his mouth. The problem is that he spends so much time essentially defending it as somehow understandable or not so bad and comparing government's attempts to stop it, to America's involvement in the war in Iraq, as if everyone agrees with him that that was a huge, unjust overreach by our government, employing the now proven questionable argument that there were no WMD's etc.

This is all because, as a typical, intellectual, leftist, pro-same-sex marriage, pro-abortion, atheist - i.e. stuck in his godless mindset, thus unwilling and actually unable to look at anything truly objectively - he also sees Mormonism as no more ridiculous than Christianity. Obviously not knowing anything really about Christianity, he outright mocks it, thus putting Jesus and Joseph Smith in the same boat… However, of course, as every true and thinking Christian recognizes, like most once were and like so many millions of other "smart" but blind folks, who are just as misguided and impressed with themselves as Mr. Bhattacharya, he clearly knows not what he is doing. There are way too many lapses in logic, common sense and good judgement, displayed by the author, to be able to address them all.

Would you be willing to try another book from Sanjiv Bhattacharya? Why or why not?

No. He is not a clear enough thinker for me - far too convinced of all the typical leftist pabulum and propaganda.

Any additional comments?

I did appreciate Chapter 3, where the story of Joe Smith and the history of the LDS church were presented fairly accurately and honestly.

2 people found this helpful

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Skewed inaccurate information

I was interested, and excited about this book. But the author has no idea what he is talking about. “Facts/historical claims” are completely skewed. not just the controversial things... but simple well known things. If you can’t get those right why would anyone listen any further. Also the tone taken is very snarky trying to get you to see the information in a very bias view without a chance to form it yourself. Awful!!!

1 person found this helpful

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just great, really

I was expecting , something more tame, maybe monotone, reading of the authors factual research, chapter after chapter. ( I don't mind that way actually, even though this was something completely different).
I found information in here, about groups, I had never heard of. not only was most all of the info fresh to me, but I was very pleasantly surprised and greatly pleased with the authors style, take and humor. he shared his journey in a way I wasn't expecting. I laughed often at his take on things and say I saw eye to eye with his thoughts. he seemed respectful and fair. and I can appreciate his curiosity with these issues. I get it, it's why I read books about this stuff. I find it crazy and interesting and like that he doesn't judge the people he writes about but calls a spade a spade .
usually I will make fun of authors who read their own books, but I'm glad it was him reading. you got a real sense of who he was from him performance and it was great. I loved the book, appreciate his work and take, and pleasantly surprised by his writing style and hence forth will be a fan. good read. loved it

1 person found this helpful

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Great book!

Interesting topic, great narration by the author. He has a unique way of portraying the different individuals he interviews.

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Polygamy from another point of view.

The author of this book is a child of the world and because of this Bhattacharya has an objective point of view. Being objective about polygamy is almost impossible but he does a very respectful job of giving readers a glimpse into these mysterious communities. I would’ve liked to have gotten more insight into the Lebaron and AUB through this perspective but I believe these cults are based more outside of Utah.

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FLDS Obsessed

I could not complete this book. I had to “put it down” several times as I felt it was written poorly, performed poorly, and lacking any feeling. If you are into learning about cults/different religions DO NOT read this book. It’s fact based - and as far as I can tell all facts are accurate - but it’s so oddly and poorly done. A waste of my time.

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  • Ann D
  • 01-15-16

Interesting and perfectly read.

What about Sanjiv Bhattacharya’s performance did you like?

He had a great, relaxed style. He could have been telling the story to a group of friends late in the evening.

Any additional comments?

I notice on audible.com that Americans are not loving this! Fear not British listeners. My own experience, together with reviews on Amazon.co.uk, show that this is a cultural issue. This is due partly to the love of Jesus and Christianity harboured by the average American. Bhattacharya explores these disfuctional groups and individuals with typical British cynicism and dark humour. Think Louis Theroux! This approach seems to have offended many American listeners/readers. However, I feel sure that it would only serve to make the book more enjoyable for most Brits.

4 people found this helpful

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  • Mrs P. Clarke
  • 09-14-20

Fascinating content, a new insight.

This book gives new windows into this controversial subject. From the apocalyptic to the mundane, all told with (mostly) respect and compassion.
I always prefer when the book is read by the author (notably Mel Robbins) and this book would be 5*s for me, if not for the accents attributed to the 'characters' in the stories. For some reason (apparently) all polygamists living in Utah etc have regional British accents ranging from Cockney to Generic West Country and the women are straight out of Monty Python. It pulled me straight out of the narrative each time, a distraction.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Courtney
  • 09-29-21

fantastic

such an easy read/listen. fascinating and so well told. loved his casual tone and having him narrate it himself.