Wednesday, April 6, 2016


by Carolyn Jessop with Laura Palmer

Genre: Memoir

Synopsis:  When she was eighteen years old, Carolyn Jessop was coerced into an arranged marriage with a total stranger: a man thirty-two years her senior.  Merril Jessop already had three wives.  But arranged plural marriages were an integral part of Carolyn's heritage: She was born into and raised in the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS), the radical offshoot of the Mormon Church that had settled in small communities along the Arizona-Utah border.  Over the next fifteen years, Carolyn had eight children and withstood her husband's psychological abuse and the watchful eyes of his other wives, who were locked in a constant battle for supremacy.

Carolyn's every move was dictated by her husband's whims.  he decided where she lived and how her children would be treated.  He controlled the money she earned as a schoolteacher.  He chose when they had sex; Carolyn could only refuse-at her peril.  For in the FLDS, a wife's compliance with her husband determined how much status both she and her children held in the family.  Carolyn was miserable for years and wanted out, but she know that if she tried to leave and got caught, her children would be taken away from her.  No woman in the country had ever escaped from the FLDS and managed to get her children out, too.  But in 2003, Carolyn chose freedom over fear and fled her home with her eight children.  She had $20 to her name.

Escape exposes a world tantamount to a prison camp, created by religious fanatics who, in the name of God, deprive their followers of the right to make choices, force women to be totally subservient to men, and brainwash children in church-run schools. Against this background, Carolyn Jessop's flight takes on an extraordinary, inspiring power. Not only did she manage a daring escape from a brutal environment, she became the first woman ever granted full custody of her children in a contested suit involving the FLDS.  And in 2006, her reports to the Utah attorney general on church abuses formed a crucial part of the case that led to the arrest of its notorious leader, Warren Jeffs.
from the book jacket

Review: I found this book to be such a (guilty) fascinating look into the lives of people in the FLDS religion.  I say guilty because I feel a bit like a voyeur reading  into a culture that tends to be secretive and guarded.  I also say guilty because I feel like I shouldn't have enjoyed reading so much about her story because she had such an awful experience. But Jessop did air it out for all of us to see so maybe I should feel guilty about looking into her life.

I had a hard time putting this book down because I was so intrigued by the lifestyle.  At times it was hard to remember that this book is a memoir and not fictional.  There were many times that I just couldn't believe what was happening and how people were, in my opinion, completely brainwashed by their doctrine into believing things that make no sense to outsiders.  It was also hard to read about how women and children were treated and how much backstabbing and disrespect there was between husband and wife, between sister wives and between children and mothers.

I appreciated that Jessop included sections about the FLDS religious beliefs so that the reader can attempt to understand why people would stay.  I feel much better informed about FLDS and its break from the Mormon church.  I am so glad that this book moved chronologically through Jessop's life and ended with their life after their escape.  It is good to know what has happened to her family after leaving the FLDS compound.

Rating: 4 stars

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