Author: Elissa Wall with Lisa Pulitzer
Pages: Hardback, 431
Opening Lines: "I clutched the delicate silk nightgown and embroidered robe of my bridal gown as I hurried to the bathroom. Though it was just a few feet from my bedroom, the bathroom seemed like a sanctuary, the one place I could be alone."
"In September 2007, a packed courtroom in St. George, Utah, sat hushed as Elissa Wall, the star witness against polygamous sect leader Warren Jeffs, gave captivating testimony of houw Jeffs forced her to marry her first cousin at age fourteen. This harrowing and vivid account proved to be the most compelling evidence against Jeffs, showing the harsh realities of this closed community and the lengths to which Jeffs went in order to control the sect's women.
"Now, in this courageous memoir, Elissa Wall tells the incredible and inspirational story of how she emerged from the confines of the Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) and helped bring one of America's most notorious criminals to justice. Offering a child's perspective on life in the FLDS, Wall discusses her tumultuous youth, explaining how her family's turbulent past intersected with her strong will and identified her as a girl who needed to be controlled through marriage. Detailing how Warren Jeffs's [sic] influence over the church twisted its already rigid beliefs in dangerous new directions, Wall portrays the inescapable mind-set and unrelenting presure that forced her to wed despite her repeated protests that she was too young.
"Once she was married, Wall's childhood shattered as she was obligated to follow Jeffs's [sic] directives and submit to her husband in "mind, body, and soul." With little money and no knowledge of the outside world, she was trapped and forced to endure the pain and abuse of her loveless relationship, which eventually pushed her to spend nights sleeping in her truck rather than face the tormentor in her bed.
"Yet even in those bleak times, she retained a sliver of hope that one day she would find a way out, and one snowy night that came in the form of a rugged stranger named Lamont Barlowe. Their chance encounter set in motion a friendship and eventual romance that gave her the strength she needed to break free from her past and sever the chains of the church.
"But though she was out of the FLDS, Wall would still have to face Jeffs -- this time in court. In Stolen Innocence, she delves into the difficult months on the outside that led her to come forward against him, working with prosecutors on one of the biggest criminal cases in Utah's history, so that other girls still inside the church might be spared her cruel fate."
Thoughts: Working as a copy desk editor at our local paper, many articles came across my desk when this case hit the papers. I admit, that I have always been curious about the FLDS lifestyle, and I wanted to know the outcome of the trial. As with many people, I was happy to see Warren Jeffs punished. It's one thing to desire to follow your own religion in freedom, but it crosses a line when it forces little girls into situations of marital rape, abuse, etc. I was drawn to this book after looking up Under a White Flag, which was mentioned on Dr. Phil. I remembered Elissa from the various AP articles in the paper, and I was very curious about actually reading her memoir.
While the story was exceptionally hard to read, it was an interesting look into the FLDS community. It is also interesting to compare these women to "modern" polygamists like the Browns or the authors of Love Times Three. Elissa Wall is very well spoken, a good writer, and really thinks deeply about the religion she was raised in. Even though she was mentally, emotionally, and physically abused by the system, she is still able to see the religion itself as something other than the people. She is also able to have a large amount of grace and mercy for the people still in the religion. I was also surprised at how she was able to star to feel a stirring of compassion for Allen during the court case.
I felt the book was well paced. It never felt as though it was dragging. In fact, I read this dense book in a manner of days. It was very, very engaging. I really enjoyed the pictures that her included in the book. In a lot of ways, it made the book more real and accessible. And, at some level, I felt sorry for Allen and the position he was put in by Warren Jeffs.
I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a deeper looking into FLDS.
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
Currently: Hammer of Thor by S. Evan Townsend and Kitty Raises Hell by Carrie Vaughn
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