Book Review | BYU Studies

Book Review

"The Polygamous Wives Writing Club: From the Diaries of Mormon Pioneer Women" by Paula Kelly Harline
May 11, 2017
Book Review
"The Polygamous Wives Writing Club: From the Diaries of Mormon Pioneer Women"
Reviewer Andrea G. Radke-Moss,

This daily feature is an introduction to a full book review by Andrea G. Radke-Moss. To read the full text of this review, follow the link below.

In 2014, Paula Harline released The Polygamous Wives Writing Club to wide acclaim. Considering the number of past publications on the history of Mormon polygamy, what has made Harline's publication and approach stand out, especially coming from someone who is not a professional historian?

From the outset, the title of Polygamous Wives Writing Club is worthy of comment. Harline claims that the idea for the book came from watching her ward Relief Society sisters meet monthly to share their writings, and then she "imagined that nineteenth-century women could have done the same" (4). Perhaps unintentionally, the title appears to be a riff on a popular genre of fictionalized women's associations, book clubs, and literary societies. James Patterson's Women's Murder Club series (2001 to 2016) might have started the trend, but it was the best-selling Jane Austen Book Club (2005) that really popularized the "book club" framework. Other top sellers followed: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (2009), Miss Dreamsville and the Collier County Literary Society (2012), The Book Club (2013), The Jane Austen Quilt Club (2014), and Book Club (2016). Taken together, this genre has allowed authors to explore stories against the backdrop of female associations. The plots might be different, but the themes are universal: communities of women meet around a common interest, create space for self-discovery and empowerment, and find group strength in pushing against the personal, social, and professional challenges of their lives.