By Barbara Falconer Newhall
I’m just back from the annual Religion Newswriters Association conference, where I got a close-up look at the polygamous Darger family — three wives, one husband — who inspired the TV series “Big Love.”
It was a great TV show, and I’m expecting the book, Love Times Three to be pretty interesting as well.
The “Big Love” TV wives were all very different. There’s Barb, the sensible one; Nicki the uptight product of an abusive polygamous family, and Margene, wilful and sexy.
When the three Darger women were asked which one was the Margene in the family, they laughed and replied none. Indeed, the women spoke of taking a little quiz, which revealed that all three of them were Barbs to the core.
Based on my quick glimpse of this family, I believe it. The three sister wives even look alike (two are twin sisters), with shoulder-length dark hair, handsome faces, and — despite producing and caring for 24 children between them — trim figures.
The Darger family uses the term polygamy, but technically, since it involves three wives, it is polygynous.
Personally, I just don’t see how the math works out here. All four Darger adults grew up in polygynous families. All told, they have produced 11 boys and 13 girls. What’s to become of their 11 sons when they grow up and want to follow in their father’s, mothers’ and ancestors’ footsteps and marry two, three or more women? Will there be enough women in their community to go around?
I asked Alina about this, but her answer doesn’t add up. A man has to be affluent enough to support a family of three wives and a couple dozen children, she said, and it isn’t often that three women and a man will fall in love — so it just doesn’t happen very often.
But that belies the family’s statement in their book that their primary charge, along with abiding by the gospel, is to perpetuate plural — that is, polygynous — marriage.
More details to come when I’ve had a chance to look more closely at the book. The post is entitled Is Polygamy Normal?
Spoiler alert. Do not read on if you are watching the “Big Love” TV series.
The TV show’s final season ended with a bang last spring — though one of the Darger wives told me that she hadn’t seen the finale and didn’t know how it ended (she was too busy caring for the family’s 24 children, maybe.)
I didn’t have the heart to tell her that the show ends with the husband getting shot to death.
btw, the Religion Newswriters Association met in Durham, NC, this year. Next year, Bethesda, where the topic will be religion, politics and the election.
Love Times Three: Our True Story of a Polygamous Marriage. By Joe, Alina, Vicki, and Valerie Darger, with Brooke Adams. HarperOne, 2011.