This is an excellent memoir that recounts the author's life as a member of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS), a splinter breakaway group of the Mormon Church that still practices polygamy as a central tenet of its beliefs. Rejected by mainstream Mormons, these patriarchal fundamentalists live in a way that would seem aberrant to most Americans. The author's compelling story allows the reader an intriguing glimpse behind the closed doors of the lifestyle of this fundamentalist group.
The author, Carolyn Jessop, was born in 1968 into a family that had practiced polygamy for six generations on her mother's side, starting life In Hildale, Utah, a FLDS enclave. They later moved to Salt Lake City, Utah when the author was about five, only to move a year later to Colorado City, Arizona, another FLDS enclave, where the public schools were staffed by teachers who were FLDS adherents. While the author describes what is like growing up in a FLDS household, the book focuses on the turn that her life took, when at the age of eighteen, her marriage was arranged and she found herself married to a total stranger, Willie Jessop, a fifty year old man with two other wives at the time.
The author recounts what is what like being the third wife in that polygamous household, which was filled with abuse, servitude, loneliness, and isolation. Miserable for years and hoping to break the cycle of polygamy for her children, who had been thoroughly indoctrinated in FLDS beliefs, the author finally did so in 2003, managing to take her eight children with her to freedom, but it was far from easy. Yet at the end of the day, the author was able to rebuild her life and give her children the tools to help them find their own destiny.
Through the author, one is able to see what life is like within such an insular community and the subservient role the FLDS allocated for its women. It is little wonder that people, especially women, that come from this culture seem to need deprogramming, as they have been so thoroughly brainwashed. Along with indoctrination of FLDS beliefs, these people have also been indoctrinated into having a palpable fear of the outside world, which has been totally demonized. The reader is also able to see the further descent into harsh extremism that the FLDS underwent, as the leadership in the church changed hands into those of Warren Jeffs, a man to whom the author's husband had been fiercely loyal.
This is a fascinating, well-written account by one who has lived a life that most would rather not have to live. It is an insider's look at a religious community that is extreme in its beliefs and outrageous in its treatment of women. So unique and quirky are its beliefs that the reader will be fascinated that the FLDS can exist in twenty first century America.