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. 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 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. But in 2003, Carolyn chose freedom over fear and fled her home with her eight children. Escape exposes a world tantamount to a prison camp, created by religious fanatics. Against this background, Carolyn Jessop’s flight takes on an extraordinary, inspiring power. 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 its notorious leader, Warren Jeffs.
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 Jordan, Utah, with her eight children.
Laura Palmer is the author of Shrapnel in the Heart: Letters and Remembrances from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and has collaborated on a number of other books, including the New York Times bestseller Escape and To Catch a Predator with NBC’s Chris Hansen. She lives in New York City.
Ann Marie Lee is a Los Angeles–based actress with television credits that include ER, Law and Order: Criminal Intent, and Nip/Tuck. Her stage performances for Broadway national tours and regional theater include Peter Pan, As You Like It, Heartbreak House, and The Cherry Orchard.