I have been interested in the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, the FLDS, for a very long time. If you’re not familiar with what that is, it’s a “church” that is an off shoot of the mainstream Mormon religion. The main difference between the FLDS and typical Mormons is their belief in polygamy. The Mormon church as a whole was started by Joseph Smith in 1830 after he claimed to have had a vision from an angel. Joseph Smith also claimed that it was God’s will for everyone to practice polygamy. In 1890, however, polygamy was made illegal and since then only fundamentalists practice it.
I, personally, believe that Joseph Smith was a fraud and the FLDS is a cult. As for the mainstream Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, while I don’t agree with their beliefs, I see no harm in what they believe because they are not hurting anyone; unlike the FLDS. All of that brings me to today’s book review!
I’ve read quite a few nonfiction books from FLDS escapees but I’ve never reviewed any on my blog. I recently came across Escape by Carolyn Jessop that was published in 2007 and I thought it would fun to review something nonfiction for a change. After the synopsis, I’ll get into my thoughts. This review will have spoilers because I’m not sure how to review a nonfiction book without them.
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.
Since this is a nonfiction story, I don’t think it’s appropriate for me to say if it was “good” or “bad” because the events it talks about actually happened to real people. I will say that it is a powerful and inspiring story. Carolyn Jessop, despite being raised in a cult, managed to not only get herself out, but her EIGHT children. Her determination and drive after experiencing lifelong abuse is just astounding. She is truly a role model.
I did have one critique of the book, however. I found it to be poorly edited. It’s written in a way where it feels like two friends just having a conversation, which can be entertaining, but it also can make for a confusing read. Often I would have to go back and read certain parts because the information wasn’t conveyed clearly. There was also an over usage of certain adjectives and at times, the writing was just clunky. I don’t blame this on Jessop, however, it’s the fault of whoever edited the book.
If you are interested in the FLDS or cults, I highly recommend this book. It gives so much insight into a very private world that exists right under our noses in America. Carolyn Jessop did write a second book, Triumph, and I’ll be reviewing it next week. I hope you enjoyed this review and I’d like to know if you all would be interested in more nonfiction reviews! Thanks for reading and have a great day!