Before I knew anything about this story, I was completely drawn to its cover. Perhaps it was the hands intertwined, perhaps the delicate lawn gown, perhaps the stark simplicity. I don't know. What I do know know is that the cover is a bit haunting, although I wonder now if it's because I know the story behind it.
Hrdlitchka's novel is the story of a polygamist sect in Utah. Polygamy means men having more than one wife. And in this particular sect, oftentimes the wives are very young. Fifteen is generally the age they are told who they've been assigned to as a wife. Normally the man is much, much older than they are.
Celeste, one of three main characters in this story, is about to turn fifteen, and is quite conflicted about obedience to this tenet of her family's religion. She has feelings for another boy, and she doesn't want to marry some old man. At the same time, she feels bad about questioning her religion. She is made to feel even worse about that by her younger sister who really wants to get married and have babies and cannot understand WHAT her sister can be thinking. The third main character is Taviana, a girl who grew up outside the sect but whose been taken in by Celeste's family from a life on the streets. Taviana appreciates the security of the life she's come to know in Unity, but she still doesn't quite fit in.
I thought this was a fascinating story, but it made me incredibly angry with people who choose to do this to their children. I'm not all for polygamy, by any stretch, but if it were only consenting adults, that would be one thing. To force children to marry grown adults with no other option, to me seems very, very wrong. The age difference alone is appalling. I have a really hard time with this concept.
This book brings up many more issues than just polygamy, however, and it is a great book which will make readers think about all kinds of issues. Recommended for mature 8th graders and up.