October 07, 2011

Stolen Innocence by Elissa Wall

Wow, this had to be one of the sadder books I've read on the subject of polygamy and forced marriage within the FLDS community. And that's saying a lot because they are all heartbreaking. Elissa Wall, with the help of Lisa Pulitzer tells her story in a clear concise manner, and it is absolutely devastating.

Wall grew up in a polygamous family and her mother had come from another one. From the beginning there was strife amongst the wives and this made family life very hard for all the children who were a part of it. With the addition of a third wife to their family, it was even tougher. Unfortunately she was only in this situation for fourteen years before going to a worse one. Shortly after her family had been removed from her father, they were placed with another family and her mother became his wife. Uncle Fred, the new husband had big plans for Elissa. These plans involved her marrying her first cousin, one whom had always been cruel and she despised, within a very short time of her turning fourteen. She appealed to Warren Jeffs, the ear of the prophet at that time and was told it was something she had to do or she would have to leave her family and the community; which at fourteen was impossible to do.

Resigned to her fate she married against her will and entered a life of rape, abuse, and hardship. Although it may not seem so lucky then, she was actually quite lucky she never carried a child to term with this man as she may never have escaped. Despite this, it was still heartbreaking that she had to go through so much anyway. Gradually, as she aged she grew stronger and met someone she could truly fall in love with, she broke free of her ties to the community and escaped the horrible life the FLDS had given her. The rest of the book details with her participation in the trial against Warren Jeffs in which she was the star witness.

What Elissa had to go through was simply horrific and its amazing she turned out as normal as she did. She went through so much hardship but came out on the other side positive and wanting the best from life and that is truly inspiring. While its a shame with recent events that she may have to testify again, just from reading the book I can see that she'll make it through with flying colors.

The only thing I would find not so inspiring about this book is the writing. At times it feels like Wall is talking about someone else instead of herself (i.e. when talking about her brother uses the term "his" brothers instead of "our" brothers did something for him) which could be attributed to Pulitzer helping her with the writing, but made it confusing at times. There were also several typos and grammar problems but I attributed this to Wall having wrote it and not receiving a full education. However, even though these things are mildly distracting, they do not take away from the meaning of the book which is why I still rate it so highly. This is more just a warning for those who cannot abide such things in a book. Also to note that the book does have some graphic descriptions of the rape of Elissa and may not be appropriate for younger readers.

The more I read on this subject the more I wonder why its not in the news more often than it has been or looked into further. With all these books out one would think that more activity and outside police forces would be sent in to prevent things like this from happening instead of leaving it to FLDS members to make up the entire police force in some of these cities. It just doesn't seem logical. However, I think Wall has done an excellent job of bringing everything to light and also acting on trying to stop these atrocities from happening. With people like her in the world, maybe some of these problems can be fixed.

This is definitely a good book to read if you are interested in the subject. It is a sad book though even if it has a happy ending and can be quite upseting at times. But through it all Wall emerges a strong and encouraging person and I enjoyed reading her story.

Stolen Innocence
Copyright 2008
431 pages

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