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Escape    by Carolyn Jessop & Laura Palmer order for
by Carolyn Jessop
Order:  USA  Can
Broadway, 2007 (2007)
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* *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

It's hard to imagine the life that Carolyn Jessop lived for her first thirty-five years. And the fact that it was lived here in the United States makes it even more unimaginable.

A member of the Fundamentalist Church of the Latter Day Saints, she lived as a child in a polygamist household. At eighteen, with no escape from her destiny, she was married - as a third wife - to a man of fifty-six. It beggars description to understand how she endured bearing eight children to this man who did nothing but foment dissent among his wives and offspring. Any small infraction brought about severe punishment.

Realizing that her eldest daughter was fast approaching the age where she would be chosen for marriage most probably to the prophet who was ninety-six Jessop planned her escape. And she brought it about, but at a great price.

When she left the community, girls of fourteen were being married to much older men, even to their stepfathers. Wives and children were taken from their husbands and fathers and given to other men, to live in a new household with already large families. These men firmly believed that the more children a man had, the better chance he had to reach the pinnacle in heaven. The subjugation of the women was necessary, in their minds, to achieve their goal. Most children received only the most basic education. Medical care was almost non-existent. Clothing outdated. Contact with the outside world kept minimal.

Polygamy has been outlawed by the U.S. Federal Government and forbidden by the Mormon Church of the Latter Day Saints. That has not stopped the over l00,000 Fundamentalists who still retain the old ways and even receive government financial aid!

Jessop tells her life history in a matter of fact way. Not asking for pity but understanding. She feels that a lifetime of being brainwashed accounted for her tolerating the ghastly life she led for so long. Knowing that her life would be even more unbearable if she were caught escaping, she nevertheless achieved her goal to give her children a chance at a real life. A very brave and determined woman.

Upon escaping, she then had to fight her husband for custody of the children. He thought nothing of lying and cheating and manipulating to keep those eight children. A true monster with no feeling for anyone but himself and one of his wives, Barbara. Thanks to their mother, these kids can live a normal life and can achieve their potential. Escape is a heartbreaking and heartwarming book.

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