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Stolen Innocence    by Elissa Wall & Lisa Pulitzer Amazon.com order for
Stolen Innocence
by Elissa Wall
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William Morrow, 2008 (2008)
Hardcover, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

Elissa Wall's Stolen Innocence is subtitled 'My Story of Growing up in a Polygamous Sect, Becoming a Teenage Bride, and Breaking Free of Warren Jeffs'. Those words tell a story all by themselves. Elissa Walls grew up knowing nothing of the world outside the one in which she lived a compound of polygamous families. Her childhood and education revolved around the teachings of the Prophet Rulon Jeffs, a man who controlled the group with religious texts and songs and the Book of Mormon. He also decided who married whom and when.

When Rulon passed on, his son Warren continued his father's work. But, to me, it seems like he carried his duties to extremes. Elissa grew up happily enough, being the eleventh of her own mother's fourteen children. Her mother, though, was her father's second wife. She and her Sister Wife Audrey didn't get along. Tension in the household only escalated when her father brought home a third wife. As if life weren't hard enough, Warren decreed that Elissa was to marry her first cousin Allen. Elissa was only fourteen at the time. The marriage was against the law for two reasons - a marriage of first cousins, and the age of the bride. This constituted rape, and Elissa finally took Warren to court and accused him of aiding and abetting rape of a minor.

If you've watched any television or read magazines or newspapers, you will already know the outcome of that trial. You'll also know of the raid on the Texas ranch of polygamists whose children were torn from their arms as they stood accused of sexual abuse. Teenage girls were found pregnant, some married to men many times their age. As only one marriage at a time is legal in all fifty American states, these girls were classified as single mothers and thus entitled to aid from the state!

Stolen Innocence tells the story of a young girl who had the grit to protest her fate. How many more are there who would want to do the same? It must be hard to fight against upbringing and what one has believed with all one's heart is the right way to live to achieve heaven - though it's the men who believed they needed multiple wives to achieve glory in the next world. At any expense, including the innocence of young girls, while young boys were cast from their community with no knowledge of the outside world simply because they might stir the pot. Stolen Innocence is a hard book to read but one that will open eyes.

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