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The Chosen One

Review

The Chosen One

Thirteen-year-old Kyra has grown up surrounded by a large, loving family, with sisters who are her best friends and parents who are always available to her. In Kyra’s case, however, her family consists of a father, three mothers and 20 siblings. She lives in an isolated community of “Chosen,” who deliberately shun the outside world and live a polygamous lifestyle.

For much of her life, Kyra has accepted her community unquestioningly. But things are starting to change as she approaches the age where she will be expected to become someone’s wife. In fact, when she is chosen by her own uncle to be his seventh wife, Kyra’s mothers, father and sister think they understand her revulsion and fear, but they have no idea of the secrets that live in her heart. Unknown to anyone in her family, Kyra has fallen in love with Joshua, a boy near her own age, who wants to choose Kyra --- and be chosen by her. In recent years, however, such love matches have been all but impossible, as all the old men like Uncle Hiram have their pick of all the young girls like Kyra. Confessing their feelings to the community’s leadership could put both their lives in danger.

Kyra is determined not to accept her fate unquestioningly. Her illicit trips to the mobile library van, and her befriending of the kindly librarian, have opened her eyes to a different world beyond her compound’s walls, one that is full of magic, wonder and freedom, not just sin and depravity the way her elders would have her believe. Does Kyra have the courage to make a life for herself outside the only world she has ever known?

Polygamous sects have been much in the media of late, ranging from news stories of ill-fated raids at polygamous compounds to the tragicomic depiction of polygamous life in the HBO show “Big Love.” In THE CHOSEN ONE, however, Carol Lynch Williams reaches far beyond parody or satire, instead vividly imagining the inner life of one very intelligent young woman whose mind and body are trapped in a system far bigger than she is.

Kyra is a fully realized character, both a product of her environment and a determined individualist, valuing books, reading and music as a way to cope with her limited future. Williams also realistically portrays Kyra’s love for her family, which is clearly passionate and authentic, despite the fact that her family structure bears little or no resemblance to most readers’. She soon realizes that it will be impossible to reconcile her desire for freedom with her dedication to her family. Watching her try to negotiate this choice, readers will be rooting for this compelling, unusual, thoroughly human character to come out on the other side --- whichever side that is --- happy and whole.

THE CHOSEN ONE is an important, heart-wrenching book, one whose nuanced examination of an unusual inhabitant of a little-known society will not be soon forgotten.

Reviewed by Norah Piehl on May 12, 2009

The Chosen One
by Carol Lynch Williams

  • Publication Date: August 31, 2010
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
  • ISBN-10: 0312627750
  • ISBN-13: 9780312627751