“After class it was time to go back home to help our mothers with the sewing, laundering, and cleaning. We don’t have television, newspapers, or computers, but there is always a lot to do in Pineridge, what with so many children to cook and care for. Except for Rowena, who is still a baby, my younger sisters and I could probably change a dirty diaper, prepare a bottle, and soothe a colicky baby, all with one hand pumping away on the butter churn. We do the women’s work; the boys help in the rock quarry or to build the new livestock bar or other physical labors.”
Keep Sweet By Michele Dominguez Greene
No matter what hardships or mood one is in, Alva Jane knows that her duty is to above all keep sweet. She is to help her family, including the seven wives and twenty-eight children, and follow the steps outlined for her and others according to the scriptures of the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints.
Alva is only fifteen and hasn’t questioned her predicament much. She does see some of the jealousies among some of her daddy’s wives but most of all she is a happy girl who is waiting for the day when she’ll become a wife to Joseph John but as the prologue indicates a hard road is ahead for Alva when she is discovered by one of the sister wives sharing an innocent kiss with Joseph John.
Surely they will be forgiven their trespass after all they were planning to be married but Alva’s indiscretion is just a way for some of the sister wives to gain control in the family. Alva’s mother had always been a favorite but now seeing how her daughter has brought shame to the family certainly she’ll fall out of favor.
As Alva’s fate is being decided upon she begins to see the cracks and looks back at all the things that didn’t quite make sense, for example, one of the sister wives lives in quite substandard housing but so it is her lot for not having been able to have many children. Alva also sees the cruelty that is brought down on women when they have tried to escape. Is this what a loving man would do?
When Alva is forced to marry a violent, older man she realizes that she can’t rely on her family to save her. It is up to her to save herself but who can she count on when she can’t trust anyone? She doesn’t have the resources and after all she is still a young and inexperienced girl who is trying to escape.
I finished this book in one sitting. It was so engaging because the subject matter is really just so foreign to me. As I kept reading this I had to remember that this is modern day times yet the young women like Alva are treated practically as slaves. They only get a minimum of education and no chance of having their own dreams. Their only use is to one day marry, have children and keep house.
While it is a YA book there were some scenes that were quite brutal that I wasn’t expecting but I definitely understand why they were included. I haven’t talked about some of the characters I liked but in my Q&A with the author she touched upon one character, Brenda who follows her husband into the community, which I found to have quite as interesting a story as Alva’s. Perhaps the only thing I would have liked to have more in the novel is the answer to some of the questions that the ending leaves open but I’m hoping one day Michele will answer those in a sequel. I know I’ll be eagerly looking for that.
Just a quick reminder that I have a copy to giveaway so just leave a comment in this or the giveaway post.
Source: Review Copy