Born into the Fundamentalist Church of the Latter Day Saints (FLDS), the author describes her life before, during and after her marriage at 18 to a 50-year-old man with three other wives.
This painful memoir certainly doesn’t bear much resemblance to the polygamous fantasies of the HBO series Big Love. The author’s large family lived in grinding poverty, and Jessop was constantly subjected to humiliations at the hands of her husband, Merril. But she had inner resources. In a decidedly patriarchal culture, she often spoke her mind, and she talked Merril into letting her go to college. Her occasional questioning of his views, however, earned his suspicion and the condescension and mistrust of her fellow wives. So what kept Jessop in the community? Fear. From her earliest childhood, when she played a game called “apocalypse,” she had been taught that God punished those who disobeyed his rules. Furthermore, she knew that no woman had ever managed to get herself and her children safely away from the community. Still, one night in 2003, Jessop snuck her eight children out of the house and fled to Salt Lake City. There, she found little in the way of support networks for women escaping polygamy. She was told that “there would be more legal and financial help for me if I were a refugee arriving from a foreign country.” The chapters about her struggles to adjust to this new life are more riveting than the occasionally tedious descriptions of her earlier hardships. Especially wrenching are scenes featuring the two of Jessop’s children who felt torn between their parents and resented their mother for taking them away from the FLDS church. The book’s final pages recount triumphs large and small, from getting her first stylish haircut to standing up to her husband in court.
Though Jessop’s circumstances were unusual—and particularly harrowing—her memoir will appeal to many women who have left abusive relationships.