This book wasn't exactly what I thought it was going to be, and yet it was captivating in it's own way. From the description, I expected more of a look at polygamy and how it worked. Instead, this book shows a darker side: what happens when a polygamous relationship isn't built on honesty and trust.
Honey in the River reads in many ways like a soap opera. There is a lot of drama and heartbreak. Marsha opens herself up and shares all the highs and lows she went through during this time. I definitely found myself both wishing for things to work out for her and shaking my head at the things she and the other people involved were doing.
One thing that I think she does an excellent job of portraying is that the blame doesn't all fall with the other person. Marsha lays blame where it should fall, and takes up her own faults as well. At the beginning she wasn't as aware of this, but by the end of the tale, she definitely is owning her own actions and choices and realizing that she was just as culpable as he was. But at the same time, she was firm in stating, both to herself and others, that he was to blame as well.
I also think she did a good job showing how Oba (the man she was involved with) convinced himself that what he was doing was okay, and how he may not have been fully aware that he was being hurtful. My perception of Oba is that he had many child like mental qualities and was seeing the world from his own self-appointed victim status.
While I definitely don't think that the majority of spiritual figures are like this, there have been enough news stories about charismatic leaders who led their flock astray that I think this book offers a powerful warning. It shows the ways in which someone can be both very alluring and utterly deceitful at the same time. It also shows how easy it is to fall back into the same rhythms, even when you may know that what happened in the past wasn't desirable.
I also really enjoyed the stories Marsha told of the Orishas. There are myths sprinkled throughout the books, stories told about the Orishas that speak to what is going on in her life. And even more than that, both Oba and Marsha talk about the influence the Orishas have in their lives, and how they may be feeling and acting upon those influences. I found this to be a very lovely example of how to integrate spirituality into your everyday life.
But even here, there are warning signs to look for. Oba used the Orishas as excuses for several different things, including cheating behind his legal wife's back. He also used his cultural origins as further reasons why it was all right for him to do the things he did. Both excuses are, in my opinion, perversions of what they should be. I fully support embracing your culture and your spirituality, but I think that when you try to use these things to trick or coerce others into doing what you want, you are disgracing both yourself and your traditions and culture.
Ultimately, Honey in the River was a fantastic read, a very moving story, and a great teaching story, both about Ifa and about the potential dangers that can be found even in spiritual circles. I have quite a few highlighted passages about the Orishas and about other spiritual thoughts. I think I'll finish up with a quote that I think is both great and also sums up the theme of the book quite nicely: “Needing to be happy all the time is addiction. We need to be present with difficult emotions as well as joy. Otherwise, the joy is false.”