The secluded, polygamous community of Clearhaven is the only place seventeen-year-old Hanna has ever known. Days away from her eighteenth birthday, Hanna is expected to become the fifth wife of a wealthy man in the community—a marriage that will also serve to improve her impoverished family’s financial status, to boot. Hanna isn’t looking forward to marriage however, especially after she meets a young man named Daniel who makes her question everything she’s ever believed.
What I liked:
A story set within a polygamous community is always a sure-fire way to pique my interest. I suppose it’s because I heard so much about Warren Jeffs and the FLDS on television for so long. (To be clear, this novel has nothing to do with the FLDS, though the dynamics between the wives of Hanna’s father, Jotham, reminded me of things I’d read in former FLDS members memoirs.) This is what made me want to read the book when I saw the description of it.
The relationship Hanna had with her brothers and sisters, particularly with Emily was nice to read about. Emily has scoliosis, and Hanna was made responsible for her care. As a result, the sisters were very close.
The questions Hanna had about the outside world, her thoughts about Brother Paul (the religious leader of Clearhaven) and others within both the community and her family were interesting to read about.
What I didn’t like:
When Hanna rebelled against marrying Edwin, her father used her love for Emily against her. Jotham threatened to have eleven-year-old Emily marry Edwin, if Hanna would not. Yes, I get it: Jotham is a despicable, abusive father who only cared how he would benefit from Hanna marrying Edwin… but to use her disabled little sister to force her hand? Really? I’d rather he did something that surprised me. Using Emily was too simple a solution, not to mention, a distasteful one.
The magical aspects of the story fell completely flat for me. These events never made sense to me, and the meaning behind Hanna and how she “fell from the sky” completely escaped me. The author’s note at the end explained it… and it still didn’t make sense to me, because I certainly hadn’t come close to figuring it out while I read the book.
While certain portions of this story were enjoyable to read, this book wasn’t at all what I expected it to be. I would have enjoyed reading this much more if the magical aspects had been left out completely—the story made a lot more sense prior to introduction of that.
About the Book
From highly acclaimed, award-winning author Christopher Meades comes a magical, provocative tale of forbidden love and one girl’s struggle for liberation
Hanna has never been outside her secluded community of Clearhaven. She has never questioned why her father has four wives or why she has fourteen brothers and sisters. And in only one week, on her eighteenth birthday, Hanna will follow tradition and become the fifth wife of a man more than twice her age.
But just days before the wedding, Hanna meets Daniel, an enigmatic stranger who challenges her to question her fate and to follow her own will. Then her mother tells her a secret–one that could grant Hanna the freedom she’s known only in her dreams. As her world unravels around her, Hanna must decide whether she was really meant for something greater than the claustrophobic world of Clearhaven. But can she abandon her beloved younger sister and the only home she’s ever known? Or is there another option–one too fantastical to believe?
With lush, evocative prose, Christopher Meades takes readers on an emotional journey into a fascinating, unknown world–and, along the way, brilliantly illuminates complexities of faith, identity and how our origins shape who we are.