The Polygamist’s Daughter

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Thank You to Tyndale House Publishers for providing me with an advanced copy of Anna LeBaron’s memoir, The Polygamist’s Daughter, in exchange for an honest review.

PLOT– In her memoir, The Polygamist’s Daughter, Anna LeBaron recounts her dysfunctional and disruptive past, as a child born to Fundamentalist Mormon cult leader, Ervil LeBaron.

LIKE– I requested LeBaron’s memoir on NetGalley, because I find memoirs of cults, specifically Fundamentalist Mormon groups, to be fascinating. As an only child raised by a single mother, the idea of having multiple parents and dozens of siblings is mind boggling; a completely foreign concept to me.

LeBaron faced many hardships as a child. When she was still in elementary school, she was taken to Mexico to live with other cult members, away from both of her parents. She faced extreme poverty and hunger. LeBaron and the other children were moved frequently, disrupting  their education, which was a mix of home schooling and public education. As soon as they were able, the children were put to work, including manual labor and selling food on the streets. She was forced to fend for herself at a young age and her childhood is heartbreaking.

The Polygamist’s Daughter takes an even darker turn when LeBaron becomes a teenager,  living with her sister and brother-in-law. This period is the first time in her life where she feels love and stability. Beyond his death, Ervil, orders the deaths of several former cult members, including LeBaron’s brother-in-law. During the hit on her brother-in-law, LeBaron’s sister was also killed, leaving all of their children without parents. At the time, LeBaron was college-aged and just beginning to branch out on her own, but she felt a responsibility to help the kids in the aftermath of their parent’s deaths. Although her nieces and nephews were ultimately adopted by a family friend, this situation deeply impacted LeBaron’s life. LeBaron was left with hatred towards her deceased father, and very mixed emotions towards her mother, who would not leave the cult.

DISLIKE– LeBaron’s life is intense and fascinating, but her writing lacks finesse. Many places were repetitive, or similar to a child telling a story, where they don’t know how to edit out the less relevant or interesting details. This made the memoir uneven with regard to pacing and my level of engagement. The Polygamist’s Daughter would be stronger with sharper editing, or perhaps if it had been co-written.

RECOMMEND– Maybe. There are many memoirs on growing up in polygamist cults and I don’t think LeBaron’s is dissimilar to other books on the market. However, if the subject is of interest to you, The Polygamist’s Daughter, is a quick read. It’s impossible to not feel sympathy for LeBaron and the other children of this cult.