What’s worse than having an utter shitstain of a husband in the FLDS? Potentially not having him. When Merril has a massive heart attack, Carolyn has to face the fact that while she doesn’t love him, she needs him.
Content note for emetophobia, forced marriage, child abuse, medical stuff
On the way to the hospital, trying desperately not to vomit from morning sickness and fear, Carolyn confronts her unpleasant reality.
I was terrified. Women I knew in the community who were assigned to marry other men after their husbands’ deaths always ended up in more drastic situations. I honestly did not know how I could survive in a family if I was treated any worse.
Not all – but many – polygamous families were similar to lions’ prides. When a new lion takes over, it kills off all the cubs from the previous lion. I had seen situations where the new husband chased off all his new wife’s sons and then married her daughters or married them to his sons. Girls can stay in the family as a commodity, but boys are often outcasts.
Carolyn has no way out. She can’t refuse to be assigned to another man. She’s pregnant and has several young children she can’t support by herself. Within the FLDS, she will have to do what she’s ordered to, no matter the cost to herself or her children. She’s not yet ready to even think of a life outside of it. She needs Merril to live if she and her children are to have any chance at all.
This, by the way, is how polygamous cults end up with surplus females. They actively drive out all but a fraction of the males. You’d think women being in high demand and men being surplus to requirements would make them cherish the girls and despise the boys, but that’s not the case. Women are property, considered about as worthwhile and worthy of esteem as any household appliance. The remaining men are exalted. If you’re not culled, you’re a king.
Barbara won’t tell the other wives what’s going on, but they learn details from Merril’s daughters. He has had a massive coronary that has permanently destroyed part of his heart. He almost doesn’t survive the first several days, and ends up being airlifted to Salt Lake City for a bypass. The wives all follow, sitting in fear as their husband almost dies in surgery. He survives the night, but then contracts a massive staph infection that leaves him so septic that his kidneys fail.
As the battle for his life drags on for weeks, Carolyn begins to miss her children, but Barbara insists she and all the other wives stay. Cathleen just takes off anyway, but the rest of the wives remain. Unable to support each other at the best of times, they end up butting heads so badly that Uncle Rulon assigns another man to helm the family. Barbara about loses her shit at losing control, but there’s nothing she can do.
After a month-long battle, Merril pulls through and is finally well enough to return home. Carolyn’s family is temporarily safe.
But this is how precarious her existence is. As terrible as her present circumstances are, they could be so much worse.