Author: Carolyn Jessop with Laura Palmer
Release Date: October 16, 2007
Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoir, Audiobook
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Carolyn Jessop was born into the FLDS, or Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. She recounts her upbringing, the emotional and physical abuse she witnessed, and her desire, above all, to get an education and become a doctor. At the age of 18, Carolyn was married to 50 year old Merril Jessop, a leader in the FLDS community. Carolyn discusses her 17 year marriage, the abuse she and her children suffered at the hands of her sister wives, and her eventual flight from the FLDS.
I’ve read a lot of novels about polygamy, but I never actually tackled a memoir. I knew they were out there, but I wasn’t sure I could handle the horrors such a book would contain. When I noticed that my library had Escape by Carolyn Jessop available for download on audio, I thought that sounded like a good way to digest the book. I was right – audio was the perfect format for this heartwrenching and astonishing memoir.
Escape was very difficult to listen to. I couldn’t have it playing when my husband was around, because the few times it was, he would get incredibly angry at the abuse he was listening to. There were times I had to shut it off, just to have some time to absorb what I was hearing. While I knew about the abuse that went on in these polygamous communities from the fiction I’d read, it was still so jarring to hear it in a memoir. While I loved the audio production, I wonder if that made it that much harder – I came to think of the narrator, Ann Marie Lee, as Carolyn. It seemed like Carolyn was sitting there, telling me what she had experienced. It made it very personal.
That being said, I’m very glad I chose to listen to it on audio. It helped me to really grasp what was going on, and Ann Marie Lee was an excellent narrator. She conveyed emotion incredibly well, and her voice actually evolves as the story progresses. She is naive and scared at the beginning, and gradually gains confidence through the listen. Additionally, Carolyn tends to repeat some of the basic FLDS information, and I’m not sure if that would have been frustrating in print. It worked fine in audio. The running time is almost 16 hours and it was unabridged.
I don’t want to turn people off from Escape – it was an extremely powerful read. While I can’t say I enjoyed it because of the difficult subject matter, I’m so glad I read it. I was always making excuses to listen more, choosing to clean rather than sit down and read a book, just so I could listen for longer. Carolyn’s resilience and strength were awe-inspiring, and I really admired her honesty and frankness. This is one of those books I think everyone should read, just because it’s so eye opening. Carolyn Jessop has a second memoir out, Triumph: Life After The Cult – A Survivor’s Lessons and I will definitely be listening to that on audio as well. This was an incredible read, and despite the fact that it was difficult on audio, I’m so glad I chose that format.