The dramatic first-person account of life inside an ultra-fundamentalist American religious sect, and one woman’s courageous flight to freedom with her eight children.
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 school teacher. 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 knew 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 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 their notorious leader, Warren Jeffs.
My Thoughts (May Contain Spoilers)
Say what you will, but I had heard of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and I never gave it a second though. I figured it was the same as being a Mormon. Um, no. I had no idea that this was a very radical offshoot of the Mormon church—a group of people who actually believed in having many, many, many wives; who never left their community; who were very strict and believed that their God dictated who married who, regardless if it’s a 14-year-old girl marrying a 70-year-old man.
Call me naïve.
I had Carolyn Jessop’s book in my queue for quite a while and just never got around to buying it. When my birthday came around and I received a gift card for Amazon from my brother, I jumped at the chance to finally get this book. I devoured it in a couple of days and promptly lent it out to my mom to read. It was that good—such an eye opener into what is really going on in these FLDS communities.
Jessop is an honest and intriguing writer. I finished the book in awe at her strength and determination to get out of the community, not just by herself, but with ALL of her children, despite the fact that they were on their father’s side and didn’t want to leave. She was also very determined to get an education, knowing that that would be something she would need if she ever got out.
Escape is a book you will read that will make you realize how lucky a life can be. When I feel like being ungrateful, I always think to what life could be like. The simple task of just running to the store, or buying a new piece of clothing, or just being able to CHOOSE my own husband, my own anything—these are all things that Jessop and the females of the FLDS community could not do. I can’t believe that this is allowed to go on—especially in North America.
Yes, there are some very disturbing parts to this book. Yes, it is NOT fiction. Yes, you should read it.
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