- Title: Escape
- Author: Carolyn Jessop with Laura Palmer
- Paperback: 426 pages
- Publisher: Broadway Books; Reprint edition (December 30, 2008)
- Genre: non-fiction
- ISBN-10: 0767927575
- FTC, FYI: I read a borrowed copy in order to give an honest review.
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.
There are times when I'm caught up with books I've promised to review and get to read books that have been sitting there for years. Escape is one of those books I've always wanted to read and finally got the chance to read in April. I picked it up and within 24 hours it was finished. This story is gripping and holds you prisoner because you can't believe what you are truly reading.
Being from Utah, and a member of the LDS church, I've always known "about" the FLDS church being there and supposedly what goes on in their compounds. Most of us do not truly know what abuses go on within these plural marriages and what happens in the lives of these poor women and children. Escape gives you an insight into the world of this religious sect or cult as some people call it. As an independent woman, so much of what happened made me cringe to read this account of where most freedoms are taken away from the women.
I could also relate as a mother who would do anything for her children. Carolyn put up with much abuse in order to protect her children and keep them from harm within the family or from them being taken away from her. Be forewarned, this is not light reading, but a story of psychological abuse from her husband, bullying from the other Sister Wives, and a story of one courageous woman who did everything to leave a lifestyle that was damaging to her and her children.
I would love to meet Carolyn to give her a HUGE hug and tell her "Bravo" for being brave and persistent. It is gratifying to know that in the end she escapes, but even knowing this, you hold your breath until the very end when freedom is finally there for her and the children. After reading Carolyn's story, you will never be able to hear the word FLDS again and not think about this intense and crazy world that amazingly she was able to leave and begin a new life.
Meet the Author: Carolyn Jessop