Friday, September 16, 2011


Escape by Carolyn Jessop is the true account of one woman's life in the FLDS (Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints), a radically conservative polygamist sect of the Mormon church - and the story of how she eventually escaped with her eight children. Carolyn relates what her life was like growing up in the FLDS, and through her experience we see how drastically the church changed once power shifted from prophet to prophet - and how it became unbearable under the leadership of Warren Jeffs. By this time, Carolyn had already been married and become a mother; when she was eighteen years old, she became the fourth wife of Merril Jessop - a man more than twice her own age.

We also learn about the dysfunctional family dynamic that she married into - while it is preached that all wives are to be treated equally, it is common for a man to have a favourite among them, and this causes a lot of tension in the household between all the "sister-wives," as well as among the children. Psychological and physical abuse is common within the sect, both against wives and sister-wives, as well as against children.

To escape was a dangerous and near-impossible task, since everything is designed to keep women from being able to leave their husbands (for example, their cars will either have no license plates or else the plates will be expired). The fact that she made it out with every one of her children is also a miracle, as many other women who managed to get out had to do so by either leaving their children behind, or only bringing some of them. I imagine that would be heartbreaking, and I was glad for Carolyn that she kept her resolve to keep all of her children together with her (even though there was some opposition from the older kids, once they realized what was going on).

I was assigned this book for a course I took on Comparative Kinship and Family Systems this past summer, and the timing of the class happened to coincide with updates in the Warren Jeffs case in the news. It's an excellent read; once I started, I hated when I had to put it down, because I needed to know what happened next. Parts of Carolyn's story (many, MANY parts) absolutely made me rage, and just as many parts of it seemed unbelievable. It's hard to think that the FLDS is still going strong and that people would be willing to put up with the kind of treatment Carolyn and others were subjected to, but I suppose that just goes to show the power of organized religion in society, and how that power can be manipulated to extreme (and cultish) lengths when leadership is in the wrong hands.

All in all, I liked this book a lot, and I would definitely recommend it.



Broadway Books

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Better World Books

1 comment:

  1. I don't have an issue with polygamy itself, but I do when it involves children or is forced on someone. I am always looking to branch out with my reading selections and I think I need to add this one to my list! Thanks for reviewing this one.