email page print pageAll Topic Reviews
"Are You There Alone?""Who Could That Be at This Hour?"3 Willows4th of July99 DaysA Beautiful MindA Change in AltitudeA Corner Of The UniverseA Falling KnifeA Frog ThingA Great and Terrible BeautyA People's History of ChristianityA Question of BloodA Slight Trick of the MindA Step Toward FallingA Thousand Miles from NowhereA Tragic Kind of WonderfulA Voyage Long and StrangeA Wedding in December Abraham LincolnAcross the River and Into the TreesADHD NationAfter DarkAgainst EmpathyAgainst Medical AdviceAll the Bright PlacesAll the Way HomeAll Unquiet ThingsAlphavilleAlways Too Much And Never EnoughAmerica AmericaAmong the DepartedAn EducationAn Object of BeautyAnatomy of a MisfitAre You There, Vodka? It's Me, ChelseaBad BoyBad RatsBarbara the Slut and Other PeopleBeach RoadBeat the ReaperBeauty QueensBed of RosesBefore I DieBefore I FallBefore the FrostBig BrotherBiteBlack Elk SpeaksBlameBleed for MeBlonde FaithBlood, Salt, WaterBody SurfingBog ChildBoneMan's DaughtersBoomsdayBorder CrossingBorn Standing UpBoys Are DogsBoys Will Put You on a Pedestal (So They Can Look Up Your Skirt)Brava, ValentineBreak Through PainBreathingBridge of SighsBrief Interviews with Hideous MenBrutalBy BloodC StreetCalm Beneath the WavesCanadaCellCemetery DanceChange Your Brain, Change Your LifeCheeverCinnamon KissCleopatraClose Your EyesCompulsionCross CountryCyborgasmDakotaDancing at the Shame PromDarkest FearDavid Sedaris Live at Carnegie HallDead EvenDead Little Mean GirlDear Zoe,Death Without TenureDeceptionDefending JacobDefine NormalDeliriumDevil in the DetailsDiscovering Pig MagicDisturbing GroundDivergentDivine JusticeDivisaderoDoing ItDown the Rabbit HoleDr. Andrew Weil's Mindbody ToolkitDress Your Family in Corduroy and DenimDriftlessEven Dogs in the WildEvery Exquisite ThingEvery Little Thing in the WorldEye ContactFaith, Hope, and Ivy JuneFaking NormalFalling ManFamily FirstFans of the Impossible LifeFear of the DarkFellsideField of BloodFile Under: 13 Suspicious IncidentsFiregirlForest of the PygmiesFortunate SonFraudFreak the MightyFree RefillsFull Steam Ahead!Furiously HappyGenerosityGenomeGetting a Good Night's SleepGetting the Love You Want Audio CompanionGiftedGirl in TranslationGod Is DeadGod Is Not OneGods and BeastsGoing BovineGranny Torrelli Makes SoupGraysonHappy FamilyHappy Mutant Baby PillsHarmlessHe's Just Not That Into YouHealthy AgingHeartbeatHeftHigh HeatHolidays on IceHot MilkHotel on the Corner of Bitter and SweetHotel WorldHotels of North AmericaHow a Gunman Says GoodbyeHow Full Is Your Bucket?How Successful People ThinkHow to Build a HouseHow to See Yourself As You Really AreHow to Set a Fire and WhyHunger Makes Me a Modern GirlHurt Go HappyHypnography for MenHypnography for WomenI Am Not Joey PigzaI Can See YouI Drink for a ReasonI Feel Bad About My NeckI'd Know You AnywhereI'm Traveling AloneIdiot AmericaIf a Tree Falls at Lunch PeriodIf I StayIf You StayImagine Me GoneIn ZanesvilleInfinite JestInheritanceInnocentInside the O'BriensInvincibleInvisibleIt Takes OneJennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinley, and Me, ElizabethJust LifeKiss of Broken GlassKissing Ted Callahan (And Other Guys)Leaping BeautyLie to MeLies My Girlfriend Told MeLife After LifeLife InterruptedLife of PiLife StrategiesLisey's StoryLitLittle Black LiesLittle ScarletLive For Your Listening PleasureLiving Your DreamLong Shadow of Small GhostsLooking for BobowiczLost in the ForestLove Is a Mix TapeLove Times ThreeLove, AubreyLowboyMadappleMade for LoveMade For YouMagical ThinkingMagnificenceMaliceMan in the WoodsMeditation in a New York MinuteMeetings with a Remarkable ManMiddlesexMind MappingMindfulness for BeginnersMirrorMaskMischlingMissing PresumedMolly Moon's Incredible Book of HypnotismMommies Who DrinkMunich AirportMy AbandonmentMy Life Among the Serial KillersMy Name Is RedMy One Hundred AdventuresMy Sister's KeeperName All the AnimalsNelson Mandela's Favorite African FolktalesNemesisNever Let Me GoNight FilmNina: AdolescenceNinety DaysNone of the AboveNothingNurtureShockObjects of My AffectionOdd Child OutOlive's OceanOn Chesil BeachOne Flew Over The Cuckoo's NestOutliersPaint It BlackPanicParadise LodgeParanoiaPeace Is Every BreathPeople Who Eat DarknessPharmakonPictures of Hollis WoodsPictures of YouPilgrim at Tinker CreekPlaying with FirePlease Stop Laughing at UsPositivityPresumed InnocentPretty Girl-13Prisoner of Night and FogPuddlejumpersPunkzillaRacing the DevilReady for AnythingRebuttalRequiemRescueRevolutionary RoadRoomRun for Your LifeSay You're SorryScatSchool of FearSeason to TasteSecrets of a Passionate MarriageSee How SmallSeeds of HopeSex and SpiritSide Effects May VarySilencedSimon vs. the Homo Sapiens AgendaSix Impossible ThingsSkelligSleeping BeautySnowSo Brave, Young and HandsomeSolitaireSomeday This Pain Will Be Useful to YouSourlandSquirrel Seeks ChipmunkStill MissingStory of a GirlStress ReliefSupreme CourtshipSurviving OpheliaSwimming to ElbaSworn to SilenceSycamoreSymptoms of Being HumanTeaseTeaseTell the Truth, Shame the DevilTen Minutes to RelaxTestimonyThat Old Cape MagicThe DrifterThe Abortionist's DaughterThe AccidentalThe Accidental BillionairesThe AdultsThe Almost MoonThe Anatomy of HopeThe ArrangementThe Art of ChoosingThe Art of Exceptional LivingThe Artist of DisappearanceThe Average American MarriageThe Bastard on the Couch CDThe Beat Goes OnThe Best AwfulThe Big LoveThe Boat RockerThe Book of JoeThe Book of LiesThe Book of the DeadThe Boy Who DaredThe Boyfriend ListThe Brass VerdictThe Breakout PrincipleThe Burden of ProofThe Case for GodThe Case of the Case of Mistaken IdentityThe Cemetery BoysThe ChemistThe Chosen OneThe ClosersThe Consciousness PlagueThe Conspiracy ClubThe Cuckoo's CallingThe Day I Ate Whatever I WantedThe Dead Fathers ClubThe Death of Bunny MunroThe Devotion of Suspect XThe Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-BanksThe Diviner's TaleThe DollmakerThe Dressmaker of Khair KhanaThe Dynamite RoomThe Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round ThingsThe EndThe End of Our StoryThe Erotic EdgeThe Essential KamasutraThe First Fifteen Lives of Harry AugustThe Forgotten GirlsThe Fortunate OnesThe Geography of You and MeThe Gift of an Ordinary DayThe Gingerbread GirlThe Girl in 6EThe Girl in the GardenThe Girl on Mill StreetThe Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's NestThe Girl Who Played with FireThe Girl with the Dragon TattooThe Grief of OthersThe Grim GrottoThe Guise of AnotherThe Guy Not TakenThe Heart of YogaThe Hearts of MenThe Heretic's DaughterThe Ice QueenThe Ice TwinsThe Immortal Life of Henrietta LacksThe InseparablesThe InterestingsThe Keeper of Lost CausesThe Keeper of Lost ThingsThe Kings of LondonThe Language God TalksThe Language of SecretsThe Language Of YogaThe Last ChildThe Last MileThe Last Time We Say GoodbyeThe Male BrainThe Man from BeijingThe Man in My BasementThe Man Who Couldn't EatThe Map of True PlacesThe Marriage PlotThe Memory Book The Mermaids SingingThe Ministry of Special CasesThe MuralistThe Museum of InnocenceThe Mystery of the Third LucretiaThe Myth of LazinessThe NarrowsThe Necessary Death of Lewis WinterThe New YorkersThe NewleywedsThe NixThe NursesThe Opposite of InvisibleThe Other Side of the StoryThe Outcasts of 19 Schuyler PlaceThe Particular Sadness of Lemon CakeThe PastThe Penultimate PerilThe PostcardThe Pregnant WidowThe Promise of a LieThe PyramidThe Qi Healing KitThe ReaderThe Republican BrainThe Rule of FourThe Rules of SurvivalThe Savage CityThe ScarecrowThe Second GirlThe Secret Life of BeesThe Secret of Lost ThingsThe Secret ScriptureThe Secret SpeechThe Secret Wisdom of the EarthThe ShallowsThe SharkThe Shock of the FallThe Silent BoyThe SisterThe Sound of Broken GlassThe SpindlersThe Story HourThe Story of Beautiful GirlThe Sudden Arrival of ViolenceThe Survivors ClubThe Sweet Relief of Missing ChildrenThe Sweetness at the Bottom of the PieThe Tail of Emily WindsnapThe Tenth JusticeThe Thing About JellyfishThe Third AngelThe TouristThe Treasure Map of BoysThe Trouble with Goats and SheepThe Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector ChopraThe Unfortunate Decisions of Dahlia MossThe UnquietThe Unseen WorldThe VegetarianThe View from SaturdayThe WaveThe Weed That Strings the Hangman's BagThe Weight of the NationThe Whole TruthThe WilloughbysThe Witch's BoyThe Wolves of AndoverThe Words We Live ByThe Wrong Side of GoodbyeThe Year of the FloodThe Year That FollowsThe Yin Yoga KitThirteen Reasons WhyThis Beautiful LifeThis Body of DeathThis Book Is Not Good For YouThis Full HouseThis Is HowThose GirlsThose Who Wish Me DeadTony & SusanToo Much HappinessTooth and NailTouchTransformation TriburbiaTrue BelieverTrue CompassTruth & BeautyTwinmakerTwistedTwo Can PlayTwo Little Girls in BlueUnaccustomed EarthUnder Rose-Tainted SkiesUnder the HarrowUnder the InfluenceUnder WildwoodUniversal HarvesterUnlessUnthinkingUp in the AirVery ValentineVisits from The Drowned GirlVoid MoonWaiting for SunriseWalkingWarWatching the DarkWe Are OkayWhat the Dog SawWhen We Were AnimalsWhen You Are Engulfed in FlamesWhen You Reach MeWhere She WentWherever You Go, There You AreWhite HotWild AwakeWild ChildWildwoodWill They Ever Trust Us Again?Wolf in White VanWomen's Murder Club Box SetYoga SanctuaryYou Look Different in Real LifeYou Should Have KnownYou Will Know Me
Love Times Three is sure to evoke strong reactions. Joe Darger and his three wives tell the story of their marriage with the aim of showing that they are ordinary people struggling with ordinary problems. They want intimacy, love, success for their children, and a good relationship with God. They identify as independent fundamentalist Mormons, which is a small group, separate from the Church of Latter-Day Saints, and unlike that main group, the independents still practice polygamy. All through the book, Joe, Vicki, Valerie, and Alina describe their friends and acquaintances who have many wives and astonishing numbers of children. They often talk about families with 20, 30, 40 or more children. Sometimes they all live in one house, and in other cases the different mothers live in separate houses or trailers. But the book is good at silencing worries about polygamy. The Dargers come across as model parents in most ways, giving their children discipline, values, and freedom. They don't force them to follow their religion, and they educate them about other religions. They use a mixture of home schooling and public schools, and the children end up doing well. The adolescents go through normal teenage rebellion and struggles, but they still love and respect their parents. The family seems to operate with cooperation and even democracy: never does it seems like Joe Darger lays down the law for everyone else. So their message that they should be allowed to practice their polygamy in freedom, without shame or threat of prosecution or discrimination, seems entirely reasonable.
Of course, polygamy has had very bad press in the last few years. Most notoriously, there has been the trial of Warren Jeffs, with accusations connecting him to the sexual abuse of young girls. If you search on Amazon.com for books to do with polygamy, you will find mostly tales of escape from Mormon sects where husbands mistreated their wives, who were often underage. Even in Love Times Three, Valerie talks about her previous marriage to another polygamist who did not live up to his responsibilities as a husband, and forced her to have sex when she didn't want to. So the book fails to address the worry that polygamy is not well represented by their family. My suspicion is that more typically polygamous families where a man has many wives involve women who are not the equal of the men in authority or ability to live independently. If the women are often mistreated and disempowered in these situations, then we should be far more cautious about making it easier for polygamy to occur. Indeed, the Dargers spend much more time discussing their own wonderful family than their religious beliefs and their ideas about the relative power and authority of men and women in marriage. So while they are eloquent in their case that they should not be discriminated against, they don't do much to set the reader's mind at rest about the possible inequality in these polygamous marriages.
One powerful point they do make, however, is that making polygamy illegal does not prevent it, but just makes people hide it more, driving it underground. If people are worried about being prosecuted for their polygamous marriage, then the women will be even less willing to come forward and try to get help because they are being mistreated. So making polygamy illegal may be counterproductive. The other powerful point they make is that spousal abuse and child abuse occurs in monogamous marriages, and yet people don't propose remedying that by making monogamy illegal. They make the very cogent argument that we should make harmful behavior illegal, but we prevent adults from practicing their religion when they are not harming anyone.
When reading this memoir, one also wonders about their position on gay marriage. Mormon groups exerted strong influences recently in California over the proposal to ban gay marriage. It would be entirely inconsistent for them to demand personal freedoms for their own lifestyle while at the same time working towards refusing the same freedoms to gay and lesbian people. Of course, their conservative religious beliefs will mean that they can't support gay and lesbian lifestyles, so this will be a difficult issue for them. Nevertheless, they have to recognize that what's good for the goose is good for the gander, and they have to support the legality of gay and lesbian marriage if they want the state to recognize their own plural marriages.
Secular liberal readers such as myself will find little to object to in the Darger's polygamy, but will be far more troubled by their extremely large families and will be puzzled by the bizarre theological beliefs of the Mormons and the teachings of Joseph Smith. The Dargers don't do anything to make their theological beliefs any more palatable or explicable, but they do help to explain the appeal of large families. They grew up in large families themselves and they look back on their childhoods with great affection. People unfamiliar with such experiences wonder whether the parents would be able to remember all the children's names and they note that having so many children generally means that they have to live a simple life because they have little money to spare. The Dargers show that such concerns are not well motivated: of course the parents remember their children's names and care for each, even if they don't have the same time for each that they would if there just 2 or 3 children. Just because there is little money does not mean that the parents are able to love their children less, and they remember their childhoods as extremely full and rich. Of course, one might wonder whether having so many children is ecologically responsible at a time when the earth will soon not be able to sustain all the humans inhabiting it, but this sort of worry is far removed from the quality of experience of family life, and in the absence of a thorough comparison of the ecological responsibility of living a wide variety of lifestyles, is hardly a serious objection to such large families.
In summary, Love Times Three is a provocative and enjoyable book that will lead many readers to question their own prejudices, and as such, it deserves attention.
The unabridged audiobook is performed by four narrators who bring a great deal of natural enthusiasm to the reading. It is an energetic and compelling performance.
© 2011 Christian Perring
Christian Perring, Associate Professor of Philosophy, Dowling College, New York