The Celestial Wife
Leslie Howard

The Celestial Wife

In the cult-like polygamous community of Redemption in southern British Columbia, the abuse of women and children is legitimized and hidden under the cloak of religion. Unhappy, overworked mothers take their frustration out on Daisy who is a scapegoat and receives little respect. She finds escape by listening to FM radio and the forbidden rock and roll of the early 1960s. While she yearns to see the outside world, leaving is impossible. Her father is an apostate, a nonbeliever who left Redemption. Daisy’s mother has been threatened with a blood atonement if she joins her husband.  

It is the eve of the Placement, when all the fifteen-year-old girls are to become plural wives by marrying a deserving member of the priesthood, a much older man. Excitement and speculation run high, but Daisy dreams of marriage to Tobias, a handsome young man from their sister community in Utah. Her best friend, Brighten, desperately hopes to be named the new celestial sister, a role that would save her from a forced marriage.

Daisy is assigned to marry the middle-aged Bishop Thorsen and both girls’ dreams are shattered. They try to run away together, but only Daisy makes it to the “outside.” A physical fight with the bishop leaves him with a permanent injury.

Daisy falls in with a band of flower children on their way to pick fruit in the orchards of the Okanagan Valley. She befriends Saffron and meets Jean, a moody Frenchman who has bought a ranch and is determined to show the world that the area is suitable for grape-growing and winemaking. He and his father have quarreled over his plans, leaving Jean angry but determined.

Five years later, Daisy is still struggling to find a way to help Brighten and others escape Redemption. She questions why the right to freedom of religion is used as an excuse for inaction against child sexual abuse, by police, prosecutors, and government.

Daisy immerses herself in the counterculture of the 1960’s, travelling to the iconic Woodstock Festival in 1969 where she embraces the hippie mantra of peace and love and is determined to share it with the people of Redemption. She hopes to convince them to leave the cult and find a happier life on the outside.

In one of Daisy and Brighten’s secretive conversations over a radio frequency, Brighten confides that she is pregnant and begs Daisy to help her escape before the baby is born. Daisy tries, but nothing works out.

Daisy decides that she must return to Redemption to help Brighten escape and to try to persuade the women to speak up about the abuse. She finds Redemption full of pitfalls and danger but when she is assigned to a job in the business office of the community, she discovers a way to blackmail the bishop into giving her what she wants.

The bishop decides that Daisy must be killed and assigns Tobias to commit the murder, but he is unable to carry it out because of his love for Daisy. Bishop Thorsen is killed instead.

Through Daisy’s efforts, women and children begin to leave Redemption. She uses money that her father left her to start a non-profit society dedicated to helping these women and their children start new lives. After years of trying to make up for her lack of education in Redemption, Daisy is finally accepted into law school and plans a career fighting injustice. She and Jean settle down together and live on his vineyard.

Book Details:

  • Author: Leslie Howard
  • On Submission
  • Rights Sold
    • US & Canada: Simon and Schuster
Leslie Howard

Leslie Howard

Dubbed “the family story teller” from an early age, Leslie often made up tales in the back seat of the family car as she traveled the British Columbia backwoods campaign trail with her politician-father. During those “crazy car rides with Dad” she grew to love the people, the stunning landscape and the history of this unique part of the world, and she yearned to write about them. But recognizing that a career in writing would not pay the bills she chose finance instead. She earned a degree in Economics and Political Science from Carleton University in Ottawa, Ontario...
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Book Reviews

  • "Shedding light onto one of Canada’s most shadowed truths, Leslie Howard’s insightful research takes us on a heart-wrenching and compelling journey from behind the curtain of an infamous polygamous cult into a hard-won life of unimaginable freedom for one brave woman."
    Genevieve Graham, #1 bestselling author of The Secret Keeper
  • "An engaging book about a spunky young protagonist who finds herself catapulted out of the confines and conformity of a fundamentalist community into the drugs, sex and rock and roll of the 1960s. Howard has a natural gift for time, place, and setting and her pacing and suspense is propulsive."
    Roberta Rich, #1 bestselling author of The Jazz Club Spy
  • "This 1960s set story of a fundamentalist Mormon who escapes her polygamist community when faced with the prospect of a forced marriage to a man four times her age is certain to appeal to anyone who couldn’t look away from Netflix docs like Keep Sweet, Pray, and Obey."
  • "Fans of historical fiction about women’s rights will be enthralled to read about 15-year-old Daisy who, in 1964, escapes a forced marriage in her fictional polygamist community called Redemption, only to be called back years later to help her childhood best friend."