Review: Escape

by Carolyn Jessop

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Escape / 978-0-7679-2756-7

I bought "Escape", along with "Stolen Innocence" and "Under the Banner of Heaven" as part of an effort to learn more about the women who have escaped from the plural marriages of FLDS. I'm always very interested to read about cults and the people who have escaped from them, and I'd finished "Seductive Poison" and felt it was time to move on to something else. I was a little concerned, though, by the handful of reviews online that claimed that "Escape" was contradictory and poorly written.

I shouldn't have been concerned. I started "Escape" in the evening and ended up staying up most of the night to finish it - I couldn't bring myself to set it down. The writing is some of the best I've read all year - gripping, candid, suspenseful, and flowing. It is impossible to not become immediately sucked into the situation that Carolyn has been born and raised in, and it is equally impossible to not respect her courage and determination. As for 'contradictions', I could find none, save for carefully highlighted differences between how members of the community are "supposed" to live and how they actually live in practice.

This is not a light subject matter. It is deeply depressing to read how Carolyn and her children are abused - in many cases, throughout their entire life. She highlights the undercurrent of domination, control, and suppressed rage that runs through so many members of their oppressed community, and notes how that rage boils over into the lives of the innocent children, as they are repeatedly abused as an outlet for their parents' frustration. This is not a book to be read lightly, but Carolyn's prose quickly treads us over these painful incidents as we race to her harrowing escape.

With careful detail, Carolyn brings home the realities of her situation, how difficult escape is, how hard it is to gather all your children together and leave, how the cars in the community are kept with almost no gas and expired tags so that police will pull over escaping women and take them back to their husbands. Ambulance drivers refuse to drive her intensely sick child to the hospital without her husband's permission; a permission he will not grant so that the child will die and Carolyn will repent for her 'sins'. Although Carolyn knows she can leave at any point, she is desperate to save all her children and cannot bear to leave even a single one behind.

If you were to read only one book this year on FLDS and the horrors these women and children suffer in the name of spiritual submission, I recommend "Escape" most highly of all that I've read so far. The story is immediately intimate for the reader, and days after my rushed, sleepless read-through, I still recall the intense details that Carolyn so carefully highlighted. As this is a memoir, it is only the story of one person and it is a given that everyone will have different experiences, but this one woman's experience is such a compelling insight into a fundamentally broken and abusive community that it has a tale to tell to everyone.

~ Ana Mardoll

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