Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams

The Chosen One is one of several titles released in 2009 that deal with plygamist cults. Sister Wife explores the issue of forced marriage of young girls in these cults in Canada while The Chosen One is set in rural United States.
Kyra Carlson, 13 years old, is part of a polygamist family made up of 20 children her father and his three wives. The story opens with her family receiving a visit from The Prophet, Mark Childs and his Apostles who inform Kyra's parents that she will be her Uncle Hyrum's 7th wife! Kyra is horrified and determined to avoid this marriage even if it means leaving the cult. But she is fearful too becuase she knows people have disappeared in situations similar to hers where there was resistance and she knows the girl is always forced into the marriage.
Complicating matters is the fact that Kyra is attracted to 16 year old Joshua Johnson, whom she has been secretly meeting for the past 7 months.

Kyra's father attempts to intervene for her but is unsuccessful. Joshua's request to marry Kyra is disastrous, leading to violence and his being run out of the cult. The entire situation further escalates to the point where Kyra must make a decision that may place her not only herself but her family in great danger.

Through a series of flashbacks, we learn that Kyra has been secretly visiting the Ironton County Mobile Library van that has been stopping on a rural road near her cult's commune. She befriends the driver, Patrick and it is he who offers to help her in her dire need. But the cult is not willing to let Kyra get away so easily.

The Chosen One deals with the many concerns the we as a society have about polygamous cults including issues of control, forced marriage, violence, isolation and the social displacement of young men who are referred to as "Lost Boys".

Overall, this novel was well-written and fast-paced. We walk with Kyra as she explores her options and how she reasons her way through, hoping to find a solution. A few loose ends could have been tidied up by the author but otherwise this was a good presentation of an unusual, but important topic.

Sister Wife and The Chosen One are very similar in many ways but the subject matter is more realistically portrayed and better balanced in the former novel. Both touch on the difficulties former members of polygamous cults must face when attempting to assimilate into modern culture. In these novels we see how young children are conditioned to accept forced marriage and how every aspect of life is controlled. Kyra seemed less troubled by the effects her choices might have on her family than Celeste in Sister Wife.

It's hard to understand how such cults have continued to exist in our society today when it's obvious that they cause great harm to both young women and men.

Book Details:

The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams
St. Martin's Griffin: New York 2009

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