Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams

Plot Summary: Thirteen-year-old Kyra has grown up in an isolated community without questioning the fact that her father has three wives and she has twenty brothers and sisters, with two more on the way. That is, without questioning them much---if you don’t count her secret visits to the Mobile Library on Wheels to read forbidden books, or her meetings with Joshua, the boy she hopes to choose for herself instead of having a man chosen for her. But when the Prophet decrees that she must marry her sixty-year-old uncle---who already has six wives---Kyra must make a desperate choice in the face of violence and her own fears of losing her family forever.

In a lot of stories like this, the main character is often meek, quiet, and obedient. Not so of Kyra. She’s not a firecracker, but she certainly knows her mind and is not afraid to stand up for herself. I absolutely loved this about her. It’s rare to see this in adults, so seeing it in a teenager, even a fictional one, is refreshing.

On top of that, the story is riveting and interesting, and I found myself cheering for more Kyra’s family, even though their lifestyle is something I disagree with. That’s some serious authorial talent.

I also want to say that this story isn’t about polygamy. It’s about self-respect. There aren’t many stories out there that handle this as well as THE CHOSEN ONE. I highly recommend it.

As with all my book discussions, there are SPOILERS below.

What I liked most about this book is that it doesn’t make judgments and it doesn’t preach. It doesn’t say that polygamy is bad or good, just that it’s a different lifestyle. And Kyra’s family is a good one. It’s full of love, friendship, and camaraderie. Her parents are good parents, her siblings are typical, and they all happen to believe it’s okay to have more than one wife. It’s just how they were raised.

It’s when the Prophet enters the story that things get bad. But I think it’s clear that the Prophet doesn’t symbolize polygamy. He’s just an example of how absolute power corrupts absolutely. He pronounces that Kyra must marry her uncle – her uncle by blood, as in her father’s brother. Her uncle is a violent man, physically abusing babies for crying too much and demanding complete and total obedience from his wives. Basically, everyone in his household is his slave.

Kyra has so much self-respect that, aside from him being her uncle, she knows she can never marry him. Even though she knows her family will suffer for it, she can’t go willingly into slavery. So she flees everything she’s ever known. At thirteen. Talk about incredible bravery.

My one complaint is that the ending was too abrupt. I realize that there will be many unanswered questions because Kyra is on a completely unknown path, and I didn’t expect Kyra to renounce polygamy, but there were some dangling plot threads that needed attention. Did her testimony make a difference? Will it help her family? Why doesn’t she worry about her family more, since she knows what’s going to happen to them? If just a little more had been included, the story would have been stellar. Still, it’s really, really good.


Bish Denham said...

Wow, sounds like a VERY interesting book!

Anonymous said...

This is beyound a doubt going on my TBR pile. It sounds really good. Having entered a culture where men can have several lies, its interesting to see all sides of this issue.

Tabitha said...

Oops...this was supposed to be scheduled for tomorrow. Guess I looked at the calendar wrong. :)

Bish - I really enjoyed this book. There are many great things going on in it, and much in the way of craft.

Anon - it's a great book. If you're willing to share, I'd love to hear your thoughts after you've read it, especially since you've just entered this culture.

C.R. Evers said...

ohh! another one I must add to my TBR list!

PJ Hoover said...

I can't hear enough good about this book. I bought it this past Sunday, and it's next on the TBR list. So I'm not reading your review!

Tabitha said...

Christy - definitely! It's an interesting story with a great main character.

PJ - LOL!! Well, I hope you'll share your thoughts after you've read it. :)

Meg Wiviott said...

I enjoyed this book also, but one of the questions I had at the end was what happened to Joshua? We know he and a few other boys were kicked out of the compound, but I wanted to know he was okay.

PJ Hoover said...

I read it in one sitting. Couldn't put it down.
I did feel unsatisfied the more I thought about the ending. I wanted just a bit more closure. This is a choice the author made, but I did feel like I needed more.
Also, there's the one scene with the baby (you know which one I'm talking about) where I felt a tad bit manipulated. I think a reader would NEVER feel this way, but as a writer, it seemed very "put in there to make an impact". Which it totally did. Don't get me wrong. I was hanging on every word. But...

Tabitha said...

Meg - yeah, I wondered that too. There was much at the end that wasn't addressed, and it didn't feel like there is a sequel in the making. I wish we'd had more information.

PJ - I'm so glad you came back to share your thoughts! I totally agree about the baby scene. And I also wanted more at the ending. Much more. I thought there was so much the author could have done, and I'm a bit disappointed that she didn't.