Stolen Innocence: My Story Of Growing Up In A Polygamous Sect, Becoming A Teenage Bride, And Breaking Free Of Warren Jeffs by Elissa Wall
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Many people have a fascination with horrifying stories of imprisonment, cults, sects, escape, etc. It's something like watching a train crash or a house on fire: terrible to see but impossible to look away. I can equate reading this book to such an experience.
Elissa Wall grows up in a sect of Mormons known as "FLDS": Fundamental Latter Day Saints. These group compromises of the people who wanted to continue polygamous lifestyles even though the majority of the Mormon church stepped away from that practice.
Most people in United States and Canada have probably heard about the practice of polygamy in certain Mormon subcultures. There is even a show currently airing called "Sister Wives" which supposedly documents the life of a polygamous family, although I have some severe doubts about the authenticity of this program.
The fact is, "Sister Wives" also makes light of a subject that is serious and has caused infinite damage within the community of the FLDS. Elissa Wall's story corroborates the hurtful effects of growing up in a polygamous community run by an unquestioned and unchecked "prophet".
The book "Stolen Innocence" is a recounting of Elissa's childhood with three mothers and a father who is described as loving but also ineffective. She details being one of large bevy of children, attending the FLDS school where they receive indoctrination constantly, and sharing clothes and other resources among the family.
As the book continues and Elissa grows older, we are shown the political side of the FLDS sect. Warren Jeffs becomes the main target of her story as she describes how he manipulates and forces her into marrying her first cousin at fourteen years of age. Thus begins the most tumultuous part of her life story which includes three miscarriages and physical, sexual and emotional abuse at the hands of her husband.
The wonderful thing about this autobiography is the Elissa manages to rise above petty finger pointing (this was so-and-so's fault etc) and focuses on exposing the FLDS for who they exactly are. She admits that it is difficulty to move out from that cult into the "real world".
Fortunately her story ends well with eventual marriage (a real marriage) to a man she loves and the prosecution of Warren Jeffs in court.
What I didn't like about the novel was the often vague way that she described situations. I understand that she was avoiding becoming bogged down in mundane details, but much of the book seemed hazy. She talks about how her father loses his three wives because he can't keep his family in control, yet there isn't any real reason given on how the family was out of control.
Many things are IMPLIED but not specifically described or explained. It's still a great book and I was able to read it very quickly without becoming bored or distracted. I supposed my biggest complaint was that so much of the book felt rehearsed and dry. Yes, it was obviously edited and published to read that way, but when she expresses her feelings on her wedding night she uses somewhat cliched sentences. I suppose it would be impossible to phrase one's feelings in a situation like that, so I should probably not be quite so critical.
I recommend this book if you enjoy autobiographies, but I definitely would not read it again. 3/5 stars.
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