Book Review Post

Borrowed Breath: Woman Centered Polygamy Polyandry
Mothers United Together

This is the review post for the book- “Borrowed Breath: Woman Centered Polygamy Polyandry”. This is a non-fiction book written by Rhea Mandulo.

She wrote the book after exploring various cultural practices of polyandry around the world.


The theme of this book is Woman-Centered Plural Marriage- Polyandry. Here the concept of polygamy is explained in detail especially polyandry.

This book answers questions like-

What is the role of women in different cultures?

How they are treated by the male members?

Beginning of the polyandry?

So, What is Polyandry? Polyandry is a practice where a woman has more than one husband at one time.

Though it focuses on polyandry still it covers other aspects of culture also. Women’s achievements are mentioned here. The reasons behind the practice of polygamy are explained in detail.

The role of government in suppressing polyandry is also mentioned here. The link between man and God is explained by taking the example of medical professionals. To find that link one should read the book in detail. It is an interesting concept.

People believe that Polyandry is not culturally accepted, but the reality is something else. Polyandry is practised from history and here such cultures are explained in detail. I am just going to talk about some cultures which are fascinating to me.

  • The concept of Partible Paternity as secondary marriage is interesting. Here a child has more than one biological father. How this is even possible? So what happened actually is that when the wife is 9 months pregnant with the child of one husband, she makes sexual union with another husband during her pregnancy due to which a child has more than one legitimate father.
  • Among the Nuer of Southern Sudan, Nuer men go for war, and to keep their women safe they forcefully capture Dinka men. Dinka men get aligned to Nuer women as husbands and take care of their wives without any hatred. Even here they all live together without any kind of jealousy. The co-husbands are patient, kind, and generous with each other.
  • Nayar community belongs to Kerala of India.

Nayar or Nair woman is allowed to have as many husbands as they want and even man is also allowed to have as many wives as they want. There is no limit to having husbands but women mostly have a small no of husbands.

The Nayar establishes paternity with the gift-giving, which means the one who gives a gift to the midwife of the woman became the father of the child born.

According to Kathleen Gough, there are two types of marriage. One is where women are paired to men by astrology and the other is the Tali Tying ceremony. In the tali tying ceremony, the wife lives with the husband for some nights and later he leaves. The wife now gets the right to have sexual relations with other men. They are known as Visiting Husbands.

  • Kinnaur society of India is a good example of loyalty. Here wife never leaves her husband even when the husband was accused of rape. People are loyal to their culture.
  • There is a short documentary available on YouTube called Multiple Husbands. It is a story of two Kenyan men who signed a contract to marry one woman.

In the relationship, neither the man nor the woman belongs to each other but they more belong to their culture.

My Opinion

Most of the books written on polygamy mostly focus on polygyny i.e. man centered marriage but this book focuses on polyandry which I like the most. It covers the wide concept of polygamy very well. It also covers culture before colonization.

As a woman, I loved the way it explains polyandry. It is kind of encouraging for me. It tells about those points that men fear to talk about. It is a great book highlighting women status in different cultures.

There is a use of simple language and one most important thing is that it justifies all its statements. I love the way it explains the concept of polygamy with examples. It kept me turning the pages.

This is one of the outstanding books regarding polygamy. This book kept me interested. I came to learn a lot about different cultures.

Besides polygamy, Here I learn a new concept of Polyamory. It refers to people who have a sexual relationship with more than one partner at the same time and all of them know about each other. It is explained in detail here.

Did you know, polyandry is practised to survive? Well!!!! Yes. After reading the whole book I found that polyandry is a result of the necessity for survival not because of pleasure.

It changed my perspective about polyandry. As a targetted audience this book is worth reading.

At the end of the book, the terminology used in the book are mentioned along with its meaning which is very helpful.

At the last I want to add that, Yes, it did justice with the concept it is revolving around. I will recommend to all my readers to go through this one. I think that the targetted audience will definitely benefit from reading this book.

You can find the book here- Borrowed Breath

Read more:

Taboo- a prohibition


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