Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Carolyn Jessop's "Escape"

by Sariah S. Wilson

My kids are participating in the library reading program this summer, and the library is running one for adults as well. Since writing has, ironically enough, taken me away from reading as much as I would like, I've made a concerted effort to sign up for the reading program and do more reading along with my boys.

I keep piles and lists of reviews for books that catch my eye. I check out what's on the bestseller lists, because I think as an author it's my job to try and figure out what makes that book sell so well.

A book from the library's bestseller list stood out to me because of the subject matter - a woman escaping polygamy.

It is called, appropriately enough, "Escape" and it was written by a woman named Carolyn Jessop. I'd heard of this book before - I've heard it mentioned in passing by some friends, knew that Carolyn Jessop had been on Oprah, etc. I had to put a hold on it (as it was all checked out). Several weeks later I was notified that they had a copy for me. When I went to pick it up, the librarian told me that it was a gripping read, and she hadn't been able to put it down. She said she'd been recommending it to everyone.

I soon understood why.

But I don't know if I had the same reaction to the book that my librarian may have had.

For three days I was angry. I was furious that this sort of thing could actually take place here in America, and that we were powerless to stop it. That women in this "organization" don't want to be helped.

So many things made me upset. How beliefs that I have that are precious and sacred to me have been twisted and perverted. How men use their "faith" to abuse their wives and their children, to be mini-dictators and tyrants in their homes.

I was sickened by so much. For the faint of heart, this is not a book for you. While Carolyn is never vulgar or crass, she is very matter-of-fact and lays it out like it actually was, and the fact that it really happened makes it even more disturbing.

I suppose in a way too that I felt a kinship for Carolyn, as we come from common roots. Not literally, in that all the people in my family are 20th century converts, but her faith and my faith began in the same place. While I was reading it, I wanted to call her and tell her to bring her eight children here to Ohio and that I would take care of them. I just wanted her out and for her and her children to be safe. I am so grateful that that there are people like Dan Fischer who was there to help Carolyn when she needed it (via The Diversity Foundation).

It is a gripping read. It will leave you horrified and feeling sick. I feel such anguish for these women who deal with such a horrible load, with no reprieve, no help, no hope but that their only path to exaltation is if their husband approves, so they must trudge on day after day through a nightmarish existence in hopes that they might maybe get their husband's okay in the next life.

I sat in Relief Society not too long ago and the subject of the FLDS came up (thanks to the Texas raid) and there was a little bone of contention, with one sister saying that we had no right to judge them, that they were mothers doing the best they could in their circumstances and according to their beliefs.

I don't disagree with her. And I don't blame the women.

I blame the polygamist men.

The world of the FLDS is fascinating and disheartening. Interesting and heartbreaking.

I don't know that I would recommend it to other people. Only because of how upset it made me. It was all I could talk about for those three days while I found time to read it. I still can't believe that this is going on right now, here in this country.

I think it makes it even harder that the tone is so conversational, as if you're sitting down with her and she's telling you this story that is so awful you can't believe it could really be true. But you know that it is.

It's a train wreck that you won't be able to look away from, and may not be able to put out of your mind for some time.

But if you've ever wanted a first-hand account of someone who lived the FLDS way of life, this is the book to read.


At 7/06/2008 3:26 PM, Blogger S.Faux said...

I highly recommend the DVD documentary Banking On Heaven as a follow-up. I believe we LDS are far too ignorant as to how these splinter groups behave. Maybe these issues are NOT appropriate for Church, but they ARE appropriate topics for U.S. citizens.

At 7/06/2008 8:13 PM, Blogger Melissa said...

Thanks for the update on another great book. One very similar book I have read recently is called What Peace There May Be, by Susanna Barlow. I love the way the story is told from the child's perspective. I am definately recommending it.

At 7/06/2008 11:27 PM, Blogger Danyelle Ferguson said...

Wow. This book sounds very intriguing. Now that we've moved to Kansas City and are so close to Liberty (RLDS headquarters) I get so many people who ask me if I'm with the branch that practices polygamy. As a convert, it's part of our church history I haven't spent much time thinking about. This sounds like a book that might give me some good insight. I jut finished reading, Don't You Marry the Mormon Boys, and found the view on polygamy very interesting.

At 7/07/2008 10:37 AM, Blogger Pat said...

I've been watching the news stories about that group in Texas, and wondered how any woman could let herself get caught up into that lifestyle, when there are so many other choices out there.
Sounds like a compelling book - I may have to look it up.

At 7/07/2008 11:57 AM, Blogger Jennie said...

I just finished reading One Lost Boy which is the story of a teenage boy who ran away from polygamy. I was expecting the usual definition of that term; the boys who have been expelled from the community. It's written from an interesting perspective and gives a sad picture of why so many women and children stay in a male dominated and selfish lifestyle. Since the book isn't fiction I can't review it for Meridian, but I'm glad I read it. It does a much better job than Don't Marry the Mormon Boys of explaining that there are deep and multiple differences between polygamous sects and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

At 7/07/2008 1:51 PM, Anonymous Kevin Barney said...

My comments on the book are here:

At 7/08/2008 10:58 AM, Blogger Tristi Pinkston said...

Thanks for this review -- I've wondered about the book and how it all was portrayed.

At 6/08/2009 10:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am reading this much later than most of the best seller readers. This book is true and shocking and amazing and scary. I don't understand how we as a community cannot understand the damage this group is doing to the young mind. As children and most especially a young girls, the tools and education are not available to make informed decisions. These adults CANNOT make a choice based on choices! They have none! BRAVO Carolyn and bravo to ALL of the children who, though struggling, will be allowed and able to make their own choices! Choice----what a fabulous ability and luxury


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