Escape by Carolyn Jessop


10 Critic Reviews

Though Jessop’s circumstances were unusual—and particularly harrowing—her memoir will appeal to many women who have left abusive relationships.


The dramatic first-person account of life inside an ultra-fundamentalist American religious sect, and one woman’s courageous flight to freedom with her eight children.

When she was eighteen years old, Carolyn Jessop was coerced into an arranged marriage with a total stranger: a man thirty-two years her senior. Merril Jessop already had three wives. But arranged plural marriages were an integral part of Carolyn’s heritage: She was born into and raised in the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS), the radical offshoot of the Mormon Church that had settled in small communities along the Arizona-Utah border. Over the next fifteen years, Carolyn had eight children and withstood her husband’s psychological abuse and the watchful eyes of his other wives who were locked in a constant battle for supremacy.

Carolyn’s every move was dictated by her husband’s whims. He decided where she lived and how her children would be treated. He controlled the money she earned as a school teacher. He chose when they had sex; Carolyn could only refuse—at her peril. For in the FLDS, a wife’s compliance with her husband determined how much status both she and her children held in the family. Carolyn was miserable for years and wanted out, but she knew that if she tried to leave and got caught, her children would be taken away from her. No woman in the country had ever escaped from the FLDS and managed to get her children out, too. But in 2003, Carolyn chose freedom over fear and fled her home with her eight children. She had $20 to her name.

Escape exposes a world tantamount to a prison camp, created by religious fanatics who, in the name of God, deprive their followers the right to make choices, force women to be totally subservient to men, and brainwash children in church-run schools. Against this background, Carolyn Jessop’s flight takes on an extraordinary, inspiring power. Not only did she manage a daring escape from a brutal environment, she became the first woman ever granted full custody of her children in a contested suit involving the FLDS. And in 2006, her reports to the Utah attorney general on church abuses formed a crucial part of the case that led to the arrest of their notorious leader, Warren Jeffs.

About Carolyn Jessop

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CAROLYN JESSOP was born into the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, a group splintered from and renounced by the Mormon Church, and spent most of her life in Colorado City, Arizona, the main base of the FLDS. Since leaving the group in 2003, she has lived in West Jordon, Utah, with her eight children. LAURA PALMER is the author of Shrapnel in the Heart and collaborated on five other books, the most recent being To Catch a Predator with NBC's Chris Hansen. She lives in New York City.
Published October 16, 2007 by Broadway Books. 442 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Religion & Spirituality, Mystery, Thriller & Suspense, History. Non-fiction
Bestseller Status:
Peak Rank on Jul 24 2016
Weeks as Bestseller
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Critic reviews for Escape
All: 10 | Positive: 9 | Negative: 1


on Jun 24 2010

Though Jessop’s circumstances were unusual—and particularly harrowing—her memoir will appeal to many women who have left abusive relationships.

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Reviewed by Dustin Rowles on Mar 17 2009

Escape was a fascinating book to read, as Carolyn Jessop described what life was like on the inside...Jessop is admirable for her courage and she definitely has an interesting story to tell.

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Kings River Life

Reviewed by Karen Lewis on Jul 23 2011

Escape is a fantastic story. This was one book I could not put down. When someone asked me what I was reading I was very much compelled to share with joy and enthusiasm what the story was about.

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Gather Books

Reviewed by Kath Flinn on Nov 10 2007

Carolyn tells her gripping story in a matter-of-fact way that does not undersell the horror of the facts themselves – nor does it do short shrift to the beauty and the power of humanity that finally surfaces in her heroic tale.

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Reviewed by Swapna Krishna on Aug 22 2010

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...

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Confessions of a Bibliophile

Below average
on Jul 15 2013

Overall, I found her story compelling, and I certainly kept turning the pages. But I feel like I was sold a bill of goods that I did not receive.

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Reading In Winter

Reviewed by Kristilyn on Oct 18 2011

I devoured it in a couple of days and promptly lent it out to my mom to read. It was that good—such an eye opener into what is really going on in these FLDS communities.

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Tina's Book Reviews

Above average
Reviewed by Tina on Apr 19 2010

It took a while to get through Carolyn’s story- and only because you don’t sit to read this for entertainment. You read it because of the bravery and courage Carolyn had to save her eight children. You read it to get a true insight of what polygamy looks like- and it’s not an HBO television show.

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Above average
Reviewed by Tim Challies on Nov 24 2007

While the book is a definite page-turner (as both my wife and I can attest) it is not always easy to read. The descriptions of life in the FLDS are at times horrific.

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A Casual Reader's Blog

Above average
Reviewed by Lisa on Aug 29 2013

This book is very interesting, and it will give you insight into the minds of at least some women involved in things like this.

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