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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.

Customer Reviews:

  • Amazing story -- horrible writing. Comes off as VICTIM rather than VICTOR.
    I couldn't finish this book. It covers a very interesting subject and an amazing story, but the writing is just awful. I felt like I was reading an 8th-grade book report. It was a facts-based, unemotional retelling of what happened. "We went here. I said this. He said this. We had sex." The author seems completely unattached. What's worse is she fills the historical account with modern commentary. This comes off as preachy. Rather than allowing readers to reach our own conclusions, she tells us why what so-and-so did was wrong or how this event that happened then contradicts her current expectations.

    The memoir is filled with contempt. Rather than a victor's story of "I am stronger because of what I survived," this story is a bitter victim's tale of "I'm better than my past and I never should have gone through this." I consent she has reason to feel this way, but we all go through stuff we shouldn't have to. I wish she had had a better editor. She has a powerful story, but poor writing stripped most of its potential impact. The book would be much more effective if it offered a personal, but objective view instead of telling the readers what to think.

    Final Thoughts: I want to learn more about the topic, but am thoroughly disappointed with this book. There has to be a better one available.
    ...more info
  • Powerful and heart-rending

    This book is quite a read... well written, quietly powerful, and terrifying. Carolyn Jessop is one heck of a woman to have made it through what she did.

    Others will summarize this book better; however, know it is well worth the time spent reading. I couldn't put it down. ...more info
  • Torturous true story, torturous writing
    I don't particularly like this book; I think it is poorly written; even as if it had been written by a secondary school student; BUT it just has too many details and corroboration to be ignored as fiction as some have recommended. It is just too powerful a narrative of what the most extreme example of inequality of the sexes and degradation and devaluation of the women accomplishes. It would be VERY difficult (close to impossible) to have created this history as fiction. It is also hard to believe that a professional author (co-author, ghost writer, whatever) would have let this book go out in print in this form under her name (as Laura Palmer has done). "I did this. Then I did that. Then XX said this. Then I did this, and XX did that." OMG!

    Carolyn Jessop must be one of the most resilient and strong characters of whom I have ever read a first person memoir. It is horrifying that (as she describes in the closing chapters of the book) her situation is similar to thousands of others within the FLDS. In our democracy we suppose (we assume) that all have the freedom and ability (free will) to make their own choices. This book illustrates torturously that in some cases this assumption is just not true....more info
  • Why is this abuse tolerated today in America?
    So they wear old-fashioned clothes, weird hairstyles, and share a husband among "sister wives," why should we care? It's their choice, right?

    Astonishing to learn of the hatefulness and abuse inherent in this misogynist society. Young girls are married off with little notice and without their consent; little boys work long hours in sometimes dangerous conditions, then are banished for imaginary "sins" before they reach adulthood so all the girls can be "assigned" to a select few old men.

    Wives are sexual slaves, work horses, and baby factories, frantically competing for position in the home, shunned to a back bedroom when younger wives arrive. They dare not leave; they are brainwashed from birth that their very salvation depends on their compliance with the will of the "prophet." They also have few skills, little education, no money, and risk losing their children; as well as being cut off from their parents, families, and lifelong friends, banned by the community as apostates who have rejected the Heavenly Father.

    Although most comply with their own abuse (can you say "Stockholm Syndrome?"), some, like Carolyn, must be coerced. Basic necessities are withheld or their children abused unless they cooperate. Carolyn's son was literally denied shoes until she adopted the required pose of being "sweetly compliant" to her "priesthood head." Wives and children are rewarded for spying on each other and gain favor and status by reporting misdeeds for punishment. Child and spousal abuse keep everyone in line.

    And we pay for it all, as only the first wife is legal; the others are unmarried "single mothers" who are not supported by their kids' dad (despite having a child by him every year), and collect welfare and free government-paid medical care for their enormous broods. Men take the money and rule the roost; no competition or weird clothes for them. The favored wife is elevated; others are condemned to raising the many children, endless cleaning, sewing, cooking, laundering; while performing unpaid labor for the husband's businesses, working the fields, even tearfully facing the media when directed (a la YFZ Ranch in Texas), while the men kick back and live it up on our dime. Any wife who doesn't like it is replaced, her children assigned to another mother.

    Despite being a 6th generation polygamist, Carolyn Jessop has the intelligence to see behind the veil and the courage to break free from the abuse. Only a teenager when she was forced to become the 4th wife of 50-year old Merril Jessop, Carolyn describes her abuse by the other wives (he eventually has 13) and being ignored and disdained by her husband, except when he regularly forces himself on her to keep her continually pregnant, thereby raising his status in the community.

    She bears 8 of his 50+ children, nearly losing her life in the process. Like other FLDS women, her worthiness is measured *only* by constant childbearing, backbreaking labor, and submission to every whim of her husband, who, she later learns, only married her to circumvent a lawsuit Carolyn's father was considering after Jessop crossed him in a business deal.

    Since the FLDS self-proclaimed "prophet," Warren Jeffs, is serving a long prison term for accomplice to rape (regarding an underage girl he forced into marriage), Carolyn's former husband, Merril Jessop, runs the YFZ Ranch in Texas; some feel he may be the new leader of the FLDS. Find out what he's really like, the tyranny, abuse, violence, disorder and hatred within his own home and the community he leads, and what is happening to the many women and children trapped in this life with no freedom, no education, and eternal damnation unless they obey.

    Carolyn Jessop's book is a page-turner, fast-paced and fascinating. You will be rooting for her, amazed at her audacity, amused by her cleverness, and thrilled when she and her children finally break the cycle with their daring escape to freedom....more info
  • Well-written book about an amazing escape
    One of the reasons Carolyn Jessop's escape from the FLDS was so remarkable is that the community was closed off to the rest of the world. Televisions, Internet access, and radios were not allowed (with the exception of the leaders and those in power), so the members of the community were only given news and information through the community leaders --who, for their own interests, skew the information to make the community afraid of outsiders. Carolyn also didn't have her own money and always had just enough gas in the family van to get her a couple of miles, making sure she was kept inside the community.

    The fact that police officers and responding EMTs in the community were also part of the polygamous sect was disturbing. They would respond to a life-and-death situation and ask for the husband of the family to make decisions about care, even if they had to wait for him to show up. These folks would also make sure women or children caught running away were returned to their husband and would find that reports of abuse were unfounded based on the power or influence of the husband. These were huge stumbling blocks for anyone wishing to escape. The final hurdle was having a contact outside of the community to shelter and protect Carolyn and her children from being dragged back by her husband or his cronies. She couldn't confide in anyone in the FLDS because others might "help" her to decide to stay by reporting her actions, and any naysayers were counseled, removed, and/or reassigned to other families. She knew that she'd never see the family she was leaving behind, but just couldn't leave her kids to that fate.

    This organization doesn't recruit from the outside, but instead uses women to breed followers that can be molded and controlled. Polygamy may be against the law, but the FLDS skirt the law by marrying, then divorcing and re-marrying. It's still polygamy, but they somehow avoid the court system (I'm sure it helps to have the police and probably the courts in that area as part of the religion).

    Carolyn's accounting of her experiences is told in the calm, matter-of-fact manner of someone who grew up where bizarre happenings were normal and commonplace and witnessed by thousands of other folks who also believed their life to be not only normal, but ordained by god. Reading this book made me want to meet and congratulate Carolyn and also do something to help others who wish to start a life away from the FLDS. Growing up in Utah, I heard rumors and saw news stories about "plygs" and I've felt sorry for them in their ignorance and brain-washedness for years. This book was disturbing and eye-opening, but showed that people can triumph even over the worst circumstances. I would encourage everyone to read this book so that the FLDS cult is exposed for what it is: a cult which uses physical abuse and brain-washing to maintain its following. ...more info
  • Shocking
    I started reading Escape last week. I work full-time and can read only in my spare time. I read this every moment I could. It's hard to believe any woman could live like that. It a shame men are allowed to do this. For females to be brainwashed like that from birth is horrifying. All women should read this book....more info
  • Unforgettable Memoir
    Escape was an unforgettable and haunting recounting of Carolyn Jessop's first 34 years as a member of a radical polygamist cult. I gave it only 4 stars because of a couple of discrepancies and repeating of facts in the book.

    It blew my mind to read his book, as I never knew how bad some of these cults were. The women and children (with some exceptions) are little more than slaves and the entire group is brainwashed.

    Carolyn's bravery in leaving the cult with her children is amazing. To do that took tremendous courage, and it helped get the cult leader in jail.

    ...more info
  • Escape
    This has to be one of the best non fiction stories i have ever read, cannot beleive in this century that this horrible abuse of women and children is allowed to exist.
    Those poor girls have never had a chance to know what a normal life should be like. Brave Carolyn for doing what she did....more info
  • No words can describe...
    See what happens when you give a girl an education? I trust the FLDS organization learned its lesson with Carolyn Jessop and has forbidden college education for females. God only knows what would happen if more women became educated. They would begin to think, for heavens sake! Escape is equal parts abomination and fascination. The thought that there is even a shred of truth to this book and that the FLDS still thrives is criminal. Some might say that only in our great country could and should such religious freedoms be allowed. I say that is taking the notion of freedom to the extreme. Though stylistically mediocre, Escape is an important book for women everywhere who chain themselves, by their own free will, to patriarchal prisons. Such limitations may seem safe at the start, even dreamily without accountability. But in the end, the slave will either go mad or free. Women are human afterall. ...more info
  • Riveting, Horrifying, but Not Well-Written
    I recommend the book for it's content, not it's style--the writing is pretty awful, most notably for it's frustrating redundancies and lapses.

    Preconceived notions you have about the quaint, if misogynistic, polygamists of the FLDS church may be turned on their heads when you learn first-hand what it's like for women and children who are literally trapped in a community, committed to living lives they have little control or influence over....more info
  • Fascinating!
    This book is so interesting because it is one woman's experience in the FLDS church, which is deeply rooted in polygamy. The women shown in this story are abused so much that it is almost unbelievable that it really could be happening in our country. Escape is very eye-opening and will grab anyone's attention! Worth reading!! As a side note, the FLDS or Fundamental Latter Day Saints is not the same thing as the LDS or "Mormon" church. The LDS or Mormons do not believe in polygamy....more info
  • Heart Wrenching and Inspiring
    There are many positive reviews of Escape, so I will try to keep mine brief.
    Carolyns' story gripped me like no fiction ever could. Her struggles, sorrow and determination are a testament to the power of the human spirit. This book is a real eye opener, it is unbelievable that there are still countless women willingly going through such mistreatment in our own country! The author of this book is a brave, brave woman, and you owe it to yourself to experience her incomprehensible journey, which will surely evoke compassion from even the most skeptical of readers. ...more info
  • things you would never think could happen in this day and age
    Amazing story of a brave woman. I hope and pray that her life and her childrens life are getting better everyday. Excellent read- insight to a life no one would have believe really exists....more info
  • The book ESCAPE by Carolyn Jessop
    I wanted a used copy of Escape, in good condition and fast shipping.

    The book was exactly as described by the seller...a signature (not the author) was on the fly leaf, other wise it was in top drawer condition.

    The period for shipping was too long....I needed it sooner. I emailed the seller and the shipping was expedited for me.

    The seller ws Kim Carlos of It's A Good Day Books...more info
  • disgusted
    I was horribly disgusted by the abuse related in this book. The amount of power and control that the men in this "religion" have over the women and children is abuse in it's most vile and refined form.

    If the things Carolyn recounts in this book are remotely true, this book reads like a finely choreographed dance of abuse and manipulation that's had over a hundred years to perfect itself.

    I actually found myself wondering if even the men could be blamed for what's gone on...after all, they, TOO, were raised to believe that they have the power and authority to physically, emotionally, and spiritually berate their families into heaven.

    GENERATIONS of this abuse has been ALLOWED, in the name of "religion"? Religion should not be accepted as giving a person the right to abuse their spouse/children.

    And there are a lot of ill-educated people around who wonder why these women don't just leave if all this stuff is supposedly going on. Well, if all this stuff is going on and it has been for several years, and they are raised to believe that it's not just acceptable, but NECESSARY in order to enter heaven, what else do they know? For generations this abuse has been permitted to exist, to become fine-tuned, and to take over every facet of their lives.

    It's a self-contained brothel of physical, emotional, spiritual, financial, and sexual abuse that is encouraged and expected of its followers.

    I am disgusteed to think that when this stuff goes on OUTSIDE the confines of a "religious" shroud, it is prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Yet these people have been allowed to practice this for generations with only the slightest slap on the wrist for doing so.

    Disgusted....more info
  • A must read!
    This book is fascinating and sad all at the same time. It not only touches the victims of FLDS but anyone who has been in a abusive situation. Carolyn is an extraordinary woman! I applaud her courage and strength. I couldn't put this book down. It is a unique and current look into the FLDS. Carolyn and Laura Palmer are very descriptive and make it feel as if you are actually witnessing the events; which can be somewhat painful to read. I think it is an important book that should be read by all. ...more info
  • One Of the Best Books on the Subject Matter of Polygamy
    I have to confess. All because of the HBO series, "Big Love", it has sparked an interest about polygamy, the various fundamentalist Mormon sects that practice polygamy and the LDS church - its history and its present. Over the last year, I have devoured book after book on these topics including but not limited to, "His Favorite Wife" "Mormon America", and "Leaving the Saints". I have read information on all sorts of web sites, viewed countless message boards and have walked away feeling like I have a pretty good and unbiased grasp of polygamy.

    That being said, I want to commend Carolyn Jessup for doing what no one else has really been able to explain to me - exactly why women stay and tolerate this harsh lifestyle. We all know that there is a degree of isolation and lack of education which answers part of the question, but why do they really stay? The lack of money, job skills and outside connections makes it difficult to run - especially with loads of kids but Carolyn was able to explain to me why many of them stay. She dispelled the myth that there is a gun to their heads and explained it's not only because they are trapped but that they believe. Believing in a concept has a much stronger hold than anything and she explained what's waiting for them in the next life if they blindly obey the "rules". It's a pretty package if you believe it.

    Now Carolyn was not really typical. For one thing she had a college degree and was married to Merrill Jessup, one of the upper echelon in their church. However, none of these assets made her life any better than someone with no education or married to someone of lesser status.

    This is a remarkable book that gives a real insight to the community she came from. It explains the dynamics of being one of several sister-wives, some of whom hate each other, the resentments, the favoritism and the abuse of children as a way of keeping the mothers and children "in line".

    This is an excellent book and also one of inspiration....more info
  • Great Book and it arrive in Excellent Condition
    Love the book, I haven't got all the way through it, but it's hard to put down. Well written and real.
    ...more info
  • A great book!
    Escape not only offers insight into a world that few know about and even few understand, but also gives us a story of a woman who was willing to fight for the freedom of her children and herself. The tale exposed in the book seems almost too unreal, and as you learn of her struggles you can't help but be drawn to her and her family. The need to know more is ever present. I would highly recommend this book to anyone. ...more info
  • Personal, but informative
    I've read several memoirs/autobiographies of ex-polygamist children and wives, but this is by far the best. Jessop incorporates informative and historical bits into her personal tale....more info
  • A Very Brave Woman
    While autobiographies of apostates should be read with some trepidation, I found Carolyn Jessop's account of her life inside the FLDS community to be very balanced and believable. Her harrowing tale highlights the fact that plural marriage is a breeding ground for violence because of the intense competition within families for scarce resources, including not only material goods, such as food, shelter, and clothing, but more spiritually nourishing requirements such as parental love, a feeling of safety, and individuation. ...more info
  • truly stranger than fiction!
    This was a fascinating read - it was a scary read in regards to how indoctrinated the cult was into a belief system that was ever changing - a belief system in which young people knew nothing else because of their increasing isolation - I would so be interested in a follow up book by Carolyn, a few years from now - I completely recommend this book to others....more info