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100 Books in a Year: Escape by Carolyn Jessup

By Dustin Rowles | Books | March 17, 2009 |

By Dustin Rowles | Books | March 17, 2009 |

Escape by Carolyn Jessop tells the author’s story of escaping from the Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) with her eight children. Ever since reading Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer, I have been interested in the lives of these polygamists, and this book kept my attention easily.

Carolyn Jessop grew up in Utah with a large family. When she was young, her father took a second wife as part of his religious beliefs. As Carolyn grew up, she was accustomed to the lifestyle of FLDS. Still, she was saddened when at the age of 18, her father told her that she would become the fourth wife of Merril Jessop, a man much older than her.

Although she was married to Merril, Carolyn was able to attend college and become a teacher. Still, she became enmeshed in the Jessop family, with its constant infighting among the wives to try to claim superiority. Along the way, she had eight children as Merril also gained other wives. Carolyn spent most of her time trying to avoid her husband and protect her children. Eventually, she began to realize that maybe the religion she had grown up in was not what she really wanted, so she decided to escape.

Escaping the FLDS is not simply a matter of leaving - those who leave are tracked down and persuaded to return. What made things more difficult for Carolyn is that she refused to leave any of her kids behind. With the help of family members and sympathizers on the outside, she was able to leave and start a new life.

Escape was a fascinating book to read, as Carolyn Jessop described what life was like on the inside. It is hard to imagine that her experience was actually a true story that happened in the U.S. As I read, I did find myself comparing it to “Big Love” and looking for resemblance between the characters. Jessop is admirable for her courage and she definitely has an interesting story to tell.

This review is part of the Cannonball Read series. Details are here and the growing number of participants and their blogs are here. And check here for more of Mr. Vlach’s reviews.

Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.