‘Sister Wives’: 10 Books About Polygamy to Read If You’re Into the TLC Show
Fans of TLC’s Sister Wives are sometimes drawn to the show because of the massive Brown family—with Kody Brown and his four wives, Meri, Janelle, Christine, and Robyn Brown, at the helm, and nearly 20 children rounding out their brood.
But others are also intrigued by the concept of polygamy, or plural marriage, especially in the context of the Browns’ religion.
The Brown family is part of a sect of fundamentalist Mormonism known as the Apostolic United Brethren, or AUB. Other branches of the religion include, among others, the Latter Day Church of Christ (otherwise known as the Kingston clan, featured in Lifetime’s Escaping Polygamy) and the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (the FLDS, previously run by the notorious, now-incarcerated leader Warren Jeffs).
If you’re interested in the practice of polygamy among people within the Browns’ religion, check out some of these books while we wait for Sister Wives to return for another season on TLC.
‘Breaking Free: How I Escaped Polygamy, the FLDS Cult, and My Father, Warren Jeffs’
Breaking Free was written by Rachel Jeffs, one of Jeffs’ daughters, after she escaped the FLDS in 2015.
Rachel was the oldest daughter of Jeffs’ second wife (out of more than 50 wives in total). This rewarding but difficult memoir details Rachel’s childhood abuse in the FLDS, as well as her experience in an arranged plural marriage, the alleged inner dealings of the sect, and an in-depth portrayal of Jeffs himself.
‘Stolen Innocence: My Story of Growing Up in a Polygamous Sect, Becoming a Teenage Bride, and Breaking Free of Warren Jeffs’
Written by Elissa Wall with Lisa Pulitzer, Stolen Innocence is a harrowing, New York Times bestselling memoir about Wall’s experience in the FLDS before Jeffs’ 2007 conviction for multiple counts of sexual abuse against children.
Wall was coerced into marriage as a child bride at the age of 14. Eventually, she stood up against the abuse she experienced in order to escape from her sect and testify against Jeffs and her former religious leaders.
‘Escape: A Memoir’
Former FLDS member Carolyn Jessop (with Laura Palmer) wrote Escape: A Memoir, the gripping true story of Jessop’s forced marriage at age 18 within the extremist religious group.
Married off to a man who already had several wives and was over three decades older than her, Jessop endured years of abuse and had eight children. Ultimately, she was able to escape the FLDS and testify to the Utah attorney general against Jeffs.
‘Daughter of the Saints: Growing Up in Polygamy’
Fundamentalist Mormon leader Rulon C. Allred, who was eventually assassinated by another fundamentalist leader, had 48 children with his many plural wives. And Dorothy Allred Solomon, the author of Daughter of the Saints, was number 28.
This memoir delves more deeply into the history of fundamentalist Mormonism, polygamy, and how sects like the Sister Wives clan’s group broke away from the mainstream church than many others in the genre. The author, like many others on this list, eventually left the faith of her upbringing.
‘American Polygamy: A History of Fundamentalist Mormon Faith’
If you’re looking for a more balanced look at modern-day polygamy as practiced by families like the Browns of Sister Wives, American Polygamy—written by Mormon historians Craig L. Foster and Marianne Watson, a former member of the AUB—is your best bet. American Polygamy dives into the history of the so-called “Restoration” groups in a way that many readers call objective, unbiased, and compelling.
‘Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith’
Jon Krakauer, author of Under the Banner of Heaven, is well-known for his “deep dive,” first-person style of longform investigative journalism. This book—which centers around convicted murderers Ron and Dan Lafferty, Mormon fundamentalists who were excommunicated from the mainstream Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints—is certainly no exception.
It’s based on Krakauer’s in-depth research into fundamentalist Mormon communities, as well as interviews with one of the Lafferty brothers.
‘Prophet’s Prey: My Seven-Year Investigation into Warren Jeffs and the Fundamentalist Church of Latter-Day Saints’
Private investigator Sam Brower, author of Prophet’s Prey (a New York Times bestseller that was eventually turned into a film of the same name), played a crucial role in Jeffs’ ultimate conviction after he was named one of the FBI’s Top Ten Most Wanted.
Brower’s unique perspective lends a journalistic bent to Prophet’s Prey, which covers intimate details of Jeffs’ life—as told in his own words in his private journals—and stories about how FLDS members were allegedly religiously and financially coerced, abused, and controlled.
‘The Witness Wore Red: The 19th Wife Who Brought Polygamous Cult Leaders to Justice’
Rebecca Musser was the 19th plural wife of Jeffs’ father, Rulon Jeffs (then 85 years old)—and made headlines when she wore red, a color normally shunned by FLDS members, to Jeffs’ infamous trial.
In The Witness Wore Red, Musser (with W. Bridget Cook) shares the story of her forced marriage, her experience of the infamous Texas Rangers raid at the Yearning for Zion Ranch, and how she made her way out.
‘The Polygamist’s Daughter: A Memoir’
Former fundamentalist Mormon leader Ervil LeBaron murdered several of his opponents, enlisting several of his 13 wives as his accomplices along the way in the 1970s.
His daughter, Anna LeBaron (with Leslie Wilson), who witnessed and was affected by much of the aftermath of her father’s dangerous behaviors, wrote The Polygamist’s Daughter—a memoir about escape, religious extremism, and loneliness.
‘Lost Boy: The True Story of One Man’s Exile from a Polygamist Community and His Brave Journey to Reclaim His Life’
Many of the stories circulating around the FLDS and its many related issues are told from the perspective of the many women who were affected. But Lost Boy unearths a different perspective: that of Brent W. Jeffs, Jeffs’ nephew, who tells his story alongside Maia Szalavitz.
Many boys and young men within the FLDS were abandoned by their families to make room for the older men in the community to marry younger women—a phenomenon that sometimes left the religious leaders’ younger counterparts to succumb to addiction and depression.