Literary Review: Escape and Triumph by Carolyn Jessop

If there was one major difference between the life of Elissa Wall and that of Carolyn Jessop during their time in the FLDS it is that Carolyn is legitimately college educated and has worked as an educated in both the public school system and within the FLDS community at Alta Academy.

Elissa did not get that chance of being able to learn all that she could from a public school system, she may have had a few years (if memory serves) but even then she may not have gone further than a high school education.

Because of that significant difference, Carolyn by virtue of her background was able to discern the differences between her life before Warren Jeffs took over and after. Which is probably another major difference between the two women…. Elissa Wall throughout her life has only known of how life was when Warren Jeffs was in power (for most of it) while Carolyn has known how life in the FLDS was prior to Warren and probably during Rulon’s early years.

Yes, I know that the above doesn’t make sense, but I am just writing / typing / blogging whatever is coming to mind at this point… so bare(bear?) with me.

Carolyn was able to take advantage of her situation from the moment she was forced to marry Merril Jessop to the point of her escape, becoming just as resourceful as Elissa Wall was but perhaps at a different level.

Carolyn found herself in a family where she was the much younger fourth wife and she wanted her life and independence away from her husband. Somehow in a moment of serendipity between her new marriage and the personalities of her husband’s other wives she was able to complete her college education in… well… education, and soon turned that over into job opportunities for her.

Granted over time she started to feel more suffocated in her family life and eventually she found other ways to stay as far away from her husband and his other wives, be it as manager for a motel that he owned, or working in other sides jobs. That college education really came in handy.

In a lot of ways this particular series of memoirs is a lot less detailed oriented about every aspect of life but focused more on certain key situations that shaped Carolyn’s mindset and outlook to the way it became today. This is to be expected as this memoir is coming from an adult point of view… someone in their mid to late thirties who knew what was important and what wasn’t to reveal to the target audiences.

The first memoir, Escape, did just that… focusing on key events in her life that changed and adjusted her way of thinking from being in a sixth generation polygamist family to finding herself in a situation where escape is the only way to sanity for her. However, by focusing on key details I sort of felt that there were holes in her life that I would have like to have known more about. Then again she gives just enough details that what I wanted was just more…. if that made sense.

When she finally escaped, she talked a little about her life with her kids directly thereafter leading up to and surpassing the moment that her eldest daughter, Betty, decided that she wanted to go back to the FLDS. Granted, since Betty was eighteen at the time she had that right to choice and Carolyn, being the smart educated woman that she was allowed her daughter to make that choice… albeit with a heavy heart.

In Carolyn’s follow up memoir Triumph she recounts the lives of herself and her family when it appeared that the FLDS world was going to crumble under all the court trials and affidavits and others stepping up to the plate in an attempt to “take down” Warren Jeffs. This also includes Texas’ raid on the “Yearning for Zion” ranch and the aftermath.

Halfway through the second memoir Carolyn chooses to switch storytelling skills and instead of focusing on her opinions, thoughts about everything that had happened after her escape from FLDS she goes through what she considers to be her core values that she developed over her lifespan and gave particular examples and memories from her own life that reflected these values.

Carolyn Jessop’s Core Values:
– Claim the power of “no”
– Set your own standards
– Hold on to whatever power you do have
– Forget about perfection and do the best you can
– Do whatever it takes to protect those you love

Whether these were truly developed over time of Carolyn realized that these were particular values that she just came to realize in hindsight that aided in her eventual escape from FLDS it is unknown… but they are values that can be related to anyone in any life for any reason.

Carolyn also describes particular reading materials or other “outside” sources that helped her to shape her mind that were not mentioned in the first memoir including the book: Feelings Buried Alive Never Die and Stephen Singular’s When Men Become Gods: Mormon Polygamist Warren Jeffs, His Cult of Fear, and the Women Who Fought Back which wasn’t a book that she read personally so much as another “witness” that was asked to talk about his knowledge of the FLDS to Congress.

All in all between Elissa Wall and Carolyn Jessop, Carolyn’s memoirs I would consider to be fairly light reads, but full of information that for those curious enough about the FLDS would learn a bit from.

Then again, because I made the conscience choice to read Elissa Wall’s memoir prior to that of Carolyn Jessop’s, I felt that a lot of the events that Carolyn touched upon in the aftermath… including the court case against Warren Jeffs it was interesting to see that perspective outside of that of Elissa’s.

Between the two? I almost felt that Elissa’s account is a much more extreme version of what is happening to young girls within FLDS than that of Carolyn Jessop’s. Then again the compare and contrast is probably better left for another post.

One quote that caught my attention from Carolyn’s memoir Triumph it would be:

Desiring revenge is like swallowing poison and waiting for someone else to die.

Sure it seems rather odd when you don’t think about it… but in a lot of ways this is true. Revenge can be considered as a self-inflicted poison. So in a lot of ways having that kind of mindset no matter the intention isn’t really worthwhile in the grand scheme of things called life.

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