Sunday, February 7, 2010

Escape (memoir)

Escape by Carolyn Jessop

After recently reading The 19th Wife, a novel (albeit fiction based on a great deal of historical fact) about Fundamentalist Latter-day Saints, I wanted to read a true life account of someone who had lived the FLDS life.  This book delivers.  The author was born and raised in a self-contained, closed-off FLDS community in Utah in which polygamy is not only a way of life, but believed by the community's members to be the way to salvation.

Forced into an arranged marriage at the age of 18 to a 50-year-old man who already had three wives and several dozen children, the author went on to have eight children of her own, and tells the story of a brutal and extremely oppressed existence.  After 17 years of being "married" to a power-hungry, abusive man and living a life stripped of any basic rights, Ms. Jessop managed to escape with her eight children in the dark of the night, and from there, build a new life for herself and her children.

The sect she lived in was the same one raided by the FBI in 2008, during which Child Protection Services removed over 400 children from their homes based on suspected abuse.  By the time the raid occurred, the author had already made her escape, and the sect had moved its headquarters to El Dorado, Texas.  It adds an interesting angle, though, to read the account of one woman who actually lived the life of those very sect members.

I couldn't help but draw comparisons between this author's life and the author's life in Infidel; there are so many parallels: the self-proclaimed "prophets" of God, men having multiple wives, arranged/forced marriages, oppression of women, violence towards women and children.  Mind-boggling stuff.

Truthfully, I found the author a bit annoying; she comes across as a little full of herself, and I walked away feeling like there were a lot of questions left unanswered.  A good chunk of the book feels very repetitive, too: day in and day out of the same fights with her "sister wives."  That said, it's a compelling story worth reading.

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