Monday, May 04, 2009

Escape by Carolyn Jessop

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 theirfollowers 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.

Okay, I know, this book review is hugely late ... but I have been very off blogging lately. Let me say tho, that my lateness does not reflect at all how I felt about the book. I loved it. Well, rather, it terrified me. It is one of the scariest books I've ever read. I think because it's true. Cults fascinate me in a morbid, can't look away sense ... and I can not conceive of this level of brainwashing. It's madness. I'm still flabbergasted when I think about this story, this woman's lofe (and how many others who lack the strength to do anything for themselves!). Words are insufficient. What mother would want this for her own daughter? All of it is just too scary for me to contemplate. It's all about power and control and simple another example in my mind of religion being corrupted by humans for power. I think my head might explode if anyone I knew every joined a cult. Brainwashing is scary stuff!

I tried to look up more information abotu Carolyn Jessop and her kids online to see how the story has progressed since the book came out, but couldn't find much. It's just such a scary scary thing. I can't believe it. I watch Big Love now and just think "Tip of the iceburg, people, tip of the iceburg".

It also makes me wonder how polygamy works in South Africa, what with our new prez and his 6 or so wives ... and then there's the King of Swaziland and his harem too. Is it like this for them too?

Everyone should read this book.

1 comment:

sleepyjane said...

You should do a search on her on youtube. There's a few interviews with her on there and if I'm not mistaken the girl that was furious about leaving her dad went back to the cult. I could be wrong, I read this a while ago.

It really is a terrifying story.

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