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on May 27, 2008
Like Carolyn Jessop's book Escape Elissa Wall describes her life in the FLDS or Fundamentalist Church of Later Day Saints.

Elissa spent much of her childhood with her parents, her 12 siblings and 10 step-siblings in Salt Lake City, Utah. When she was 9 however Warren Jeffs (the son of the prophet Rulon) had her father banished and her mother "given" to leader Fred Jessop. Elissa did not have an easy time because her step-sisters would make fun of her and her siblings. When she was 14 Fred told the family that three of the daughters of the home would be married soon. Elissa did not realize that she would be one of them and when she found out that she was to marry her 18 year old first cousin Allen Steed she was mad.

During the time between the announcement that she was to be married and the marriage itself she tried to get Warren and Rulon Jeffs to change their minds and give her more time. They did not and at 14 she was married to Allen. Over the next 3 years she did her best to be a good wife, but Allen's abuse and sexual advances hurt her very deeply. She would spend much of her time living in her car or spending the night at her mothers house, so that she would not have to go home.

One night when she was 17 she was going to a space that she used to sleep in her truck when her tires blow and she started to have a miscarriage. She was in the mud trying to change her tire when she met Lamont Barlow a fellow member of the FLDS. This meeting changed their lives. At first they were just friends, but shortly after he left the FLDS they became romantically involved and Elissa became pregnant.

When Elissa was pregnant with her baby she left the FLDS and shortly afterwards was encouraged by her sisters who had also left the FLDS to file a suit against Allan, Warren Jeffs, and the FLDS which is detailed in the book.

This is a very powerful, well written book.
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on June 10, 2008
I read "Stolen Innocence" right after Escape and both were equally fascinating and equally riveting. But then I got to thinking. Which story is more catastrophic? I thought about this for a very long time because I couldn't really decide; each was such a vulgar and violent story of an FLDS bride. After second thought though I've come to the conclusion that "Stolen Innocence" is even more horrendous and hurtful (if you've read "Escape" then you'll know that this new book is truly tragic.)

You know, in my life I've read about many ugly vulgarities. Sometimes I really think that humanity is dead and our fellow (wo)man doesn't care about each other. But the book "Stolen Innocence" is genuinely the most repugnant and vicious story that I've ever read. Because of that, the book was also one of the most fascinating and detailed autobiographies that I've read.

Most of "Stolen Innocence" was all about the systematic and thought-out rape and sexual abuse of a minor. Ms. Elissa Wall was married off to a grown-man at the young age of only 14! The author describes how she begged everyone who would listen to at least give her "2 more years."

Once she was married she was the repeated victim of severe rape and sexual abuse at the hands of her 20 year-old husband, who, by the way, was also her biological cousin. And, I have to ask, what kind of sorry excuse, what kind of waste of human life would do such a thing to a little girl? Even wild animals aren't this barbaric and cruel. In great detail the author also courageously details how she begged her husband not to rape her.

However, Elissa was raped repeatedly because this cult, the FLDS, only considers girls their property! When Ms. Wall got the strength to speak to their "prophet," Warren Jeffs, this pig actually condoned what her husband did to her and even started blaming her! Can you believe that there is honestly a religion in the USA that would allow little girls to be married off and then forced into violent sexual abuse and raped, over and over again? It is disgusting and shocking and shameless, to say the very least. And I cannot believe this has gone on and continues to go on.

Elissa taught me that her story in and of itself isn't exactly unique. Girls are forced into sexual assault all the time and their "church," the FLDS, even condone this and promote this! What is unique about the author is that she had the courage to get out of this sulfurous-pit and she had the conviction to report her abuse to the authorities.

Like a prisoner sentenced to a life of hard-labor, Elissa tells how no one came to her rescue as she was trapped in this loveless marriage. No one. Not her mother, not her father, not her step-father. Nobody. Everyone was afraid of going against this Hitler-like tyrant, Warren Jeffs. Ms. Wall even states how he was like a god to them because this was all they were taught to believe. And that is probably what is fundamentally wrong with this cult. Because no one was ever allowed to think for themselves. Free-thought was not just frowned upon, it was reason enough to be expelled from this group. Thrown out like garbage. But why would anyone want to stay?

Even after all of the rape and sexual abuse, cased by her husband and Warren Jeffs, Elissa was still terrified of leaving. These passages of the book were both very sad and disappointing. But I suppose it's human nature. If this is all someone knows from the time they're born how could you expect them to leave without any trepidation? After all, even a dog comes back to his master who beats him because that's all he knows.

Finally, Elissa took to sleeping inside her truck at nights so she could avoid the violence that was sure to befall her inside her bedroom. The author thoughtfully details how her little truck wasn't at all comfortable, however she knew it was better than the complete and total hell she was sure to face if her rapist husband got a hold of her. This actually went on for months, too. Of course this isn't normalcy, but what do you expect a young girl to do who otherwise has zero options and is being victimized fairly regularly? As far as I'm concerned she coped way better than I could have. Most would have probably shot the S.O.B. between the eyes and went to jail happy, knowing that the world would be a better place with one less child-rapist.

Like "Escape," "Stolen Innocence" also recounts how the FLDS ruled every single aspect of the lives of everyone involved in this cult. The "church" owns the homes and land where each family lived and dictated what everyone had to wear and read. The cult even set up marriages. In fact, Elissa details how the cult was the only way someone could "experience salvation." The cult also had the power to tear apparent entire families. Pit son against father and mother against baby. Why? It was a way for these masochists to say: I am in Control. Elissa and all of the members of this cult were nothing more than slaves. But that doesn't excuse or condone what her rapist did to her in the least.

I also learned more about this cult, the FLDS. Elissa wrote about why it was "so important" for her to get married. One of the main tenants of this cult is to procreate and have as much children as possible. Of course it goes without saying that sexual education, contraception, abortion, even prenatal care and anything else that involved free-thinking and common sense (and intelligence) are totally off-limits.

Elissa even has the inner-strength to write about how she became pregnant multiple times as a result of her serial-rapist husband, Allen. I've always been raised to believe that the birth of a baby was a blessing. But how could anyone think that the rape of an underage teenager, by her adult cousin was a blessing? With zero prenatal care, this young child miscarried each time. You wanna know what the real "blessing" is? That's the blessing! Could you imagine bringing a baby into a world like that? A child should be brought into a world of love and acceptance, not fear and violence and shame. Perhaps this was the only circumstance (which was more or less by chance) which proved to be compassionate to Elissa.

Ms. Wall also explains with great triumph how she found real love and how, over time, she got away. Some of this portion of the book was very bittersweet and heartbreaking, though. Because Elissa was vilified by her soon-to-be-former cult. Elissa's rapist husband went running to Warren Jeffs when he couldn't control her any longer. Can you believe that Warren Jeffs actually blamed her again and even said that she should sacrifice her body (a human sacrifice?) Because of so much real d egradation and oppression, the truth inside this book really is stranger than fiction.

When Elissa writes about how she finally got away I was afraid for her safety because during these sections of the book it was the most suspenseful. But she found a way out of this hell. And she kept her sanity, too. Frankly, this would be enough to drive just about anyone crazy. But Elissa was so strong. Of course her brainwashed mother disowned her. It's so sad that her mother would side with the ones who raped her daughter, but I suppose that is common in this cult that rips apart families. And, Elissa was never bitter! She never used any negative words to describe any of the people who were the cruelest to her (Oh, I could think of a few.) She is wise beyond her years and such a compassionate person.

I can't recommend this book enough. If you're interested in women's issues, human rights issues or just books that describe adversity then "Stolen Innocence" is for you. BTW, this book also includes many never-before-published photos of life inside the FLDS. There are many color pictures inside the book and even some recent ones of Elissa and her current husband, her first Real Husband and her 2 precious babies. I also enjoyed this book because it was also the story of great hope. Anyone with any sentiency will cry tears of sorrow and tears of joy as you read this chilling narration.

What I also learned from this book is that the FLDS collectively raises their boys to be rapists, sexual deviants and sadists. And this same cult brings up the girls to be coconspirators, subservient wives and accepting victims. If that's not reason enough to take away all of these children and lock up their abusers then I'll never know what is. And, for the life of me, I don't understand why wasn't the FBI more involved with Elissa's case or with any of the recent cases involving this cult? It's not just a "domestic issue" and it's certainly not "religious prosecution." The rape of a child is a Federal Offense.

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center (a not-for-profit organization,) as of 2005 they classified the FLDS as a "hate group." This is in part because of the cult's teachings that non-whites are "less than human." IMHO any hate group, even one that hides behind the guise of a "religion" must be stopped. Bigotry and lack of education are nothing more than poison and what this book taught me the most is that the FLDS is just as dangerous as any other "terrorist group" because of that very reason. Maybe more so, because we don't even know about it, fully. There's a saying that comes to mind, "the greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist." I tend to disagree. As far as hate groups such as the FLDS are concerned, the greatest trick they ever pulled off was convincing their followers that the devil does exist.
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on May 25, 2008
This book is a first person account of a stifling, controlling and sometimes horrifying and criminal community of Mormon fundamentalists.

The Fundamentalist Church of the Latter Day Saints is rooted in fear of the "end of times", which always seems to be just around the bend. As we discover in the book, the "religion" or cult is very controlling of women, holding their salvation over their heads for ransom. This utter devotion by some of the women leaves many of the children who hit their teens and feel something is wrong - out in the cold, literally. My anger at Elissa's mother was raging at times. I wanted to shake her shoulders at times. I couldn't sacrafice my children to starvation, rape and other dangers just so I could be rewarded in the next life - and this women had FOURTEEN kids to mess up with - and she did with most of them, in my opinion. Elissa tried to take a forgiving Zen-like approach to the outrage anybody should feel towards her mother, but I am less forgiving I suppose.

I bought this book on a Friday and finsihed by early Sunday afternoon. I couldn't put it down I was in such disbelief at the torments that Elissa faced and how boldy they objectified, controlled and used women. It's archaic to say the least. Elissa's inner moral compass kept telling her somthing was wrong and she should follow her heart, and she did. That's something we have in common.

The co-author probably had a lot to do with how well written the book was since Elissa didn't get much of an education.

You did get the distinct impression she was telling her side of the story and I was nearly cheering out loud that she finally had a voice.

The author is also now helping others who want to escape this oppressive and controlling way of life.

There were several editing errors - from a period in the middle of a sentence to the wrong tense and the wrong word, in the case of "peak" which should have been "peek" - I was actually surprised at the number of errors. In any other book I probably would have stopped reading at the fourth or so error in a non-fiction book. The material in this book was so compelling I couldn't stop reading it.
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Everytime I give a memoir about a heartwrenching topic less than four stars, I tend to feel a tremendous amount of guilt. I always feel like the author will read my less than stellar review and think "Well I'm sorry that what I went through wasn't GOOD enough for you! What, did you want me to go through more so that you could me entertained?" While this wasn't my issue with Stolen Innocence, I do have to give it three stars (and that's being semi-generous).

My main issue with Stolen Innocence was that it lagged big time. A big chunk of this book was very repetitive. In fact, the first 100 pages were good and the last 100 pages were great. However, the middle was just a repeat of what she had mentioned in the first 100 pages repeated throughout about 200 more. This book would've been way better if it had been a bit on the shorter side sans any repeating.

Stolen Innocence was also terribly written. I do understand that Elissa Wall isn't a writer and hence this book wasn't going to be some literary masterpiece, but I did expect it to be semi well-written. Shouldn't her ghostwriter have made it a bit more readable? And the editor really should have done a better job. There were glaring typos all over Stolen Innocence. I had to resist the urge to take out a red pen and correct them all. This was a FINAL copy, not an Advanced Reader's Copy and therefore should have read like one.

Again I state that I did find Elisa Wall's story incredibly heartwrenching and the way that the FLDS treats its women really pisses me off. I am incredibly happy that Wall managed to escape and survive that ideal and I think it's great that she's sharing her story. I just wish it would've been better written.
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on May 18, 2008
I couldn't put this book down. From the very beginning I was captivated by Elissa Wall's story of childhood lost and countless heartbreaks. She offers her readers an amazing "behind the scene" look at polygamy in the United States under Warren Jeffs and brings new light to the plight of the women and children still living within its confines. Elissa is a brave young lady and this book offers readers a unique opportunity to glimpse into the her life as a young girl in the FLDS.
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on May 17, 2008
I bought this book to read on a long flight but decided to take an advance "peak." I could not help myself - I just kept reading page after page until I finished it over the course of one afternoon! Melissa Wall tells her story in such an easy to read style, giving the reader a fascinating insider's tour of a completely different way of life. The book is respectful and dignified while it tells a shocking story of abuse and betrayal. The poignant description of a family's turmoil not only touches the heart but it also provokes deep thought. It raises questions of what is most important in life: struggles between faith and independent reasoning, tensions between family and church, between husbands and wives, between parents and children. This book is informative, entertaining, challenging, moving and disturbing. By revealing the intimate,inner experience of one girl's broken heart, it issues a powerful cry to all of us to protect and nurture children.
Sarah Chana Radcliffe, author, "Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice"
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on May 28, 2008
Elissa Wall is a brave woman. Despite all of the social programming she was subjected to, she somehow still managed to maintain her independent spirit. She managed to break free of the society that had forced her, as a very young girl, into marriage...and ultimately, she truly sets herself free by writing this memoir and sharing herself and her story with others.

I began reading the book out of a sort of revolted fascination with the FLDS, but I soon got caught up on a much more personal level. It was an amazing read. I recommend it highly.
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on August 4, 2014
I know Elissa can't save every girl with her bravery in writing her truth, but I know this book will make a difference. Most people have watched enough news programs to know about this cult,but reading Elissa's personal experience and journey is so much more powerful. She took her pain and did something so positive with it. God Bless you Elissa and all the other victims that are brain washed to accept true evil as a way of life. I believe in freedom of religion. What I just read was not religion. It was organized pedophiles. Every single person that is a member allowing this to happen is just as guilty as "Uncle Warren" Putting yourself before your innocent children is something I personally don't understand. I would die for my children's protection. Regardless of anything. Elissa's courage saved her life. I do wonder what the outcome would have been had she not met Lamont.
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on July 30, 2013
This book is long and much of it is very redundant. The quality of writing is poor in some parts and the flow of the story is inconsistent. I found myself skipping parts of this book to get to the point. The reviewers who say that it's good only in the beginning and end have it right.

After I finished this story I did some research about FDLS, Warren Jeffs and Elissa Wall. I truly believe that Jeffs is an evil and corrupt man, capable of doing all the things described in the book. He has since been charged with sex crimes against underage girls and boys and will likely be in prison the rest of his life. But I also discovered some websites questioning the truth in Elissa's account. While I realize that those sites were likely created by someone with ties to FDLS and are biased, they did cause me to question some things.

I think that Elissa's story is tragic. She was stuck in a cult. Her mother and two of her sisters are still stuck in it. They are brainwashed. Any culture that leads girls to believe that marriage at 12 (the age of one of Jeffs brides), 13 or 14 is desirable is sick. Any culture that leads women to believe that they should have to share their husband with numerous other women is sick.

But I do wonder if, at the time, Elissa was truly against the marriage. Honestly, the pictures in her book and on other websites do not show an unhappy bride. She looks a little nervous and embarrassed, but she doesn't look like a girl who had been crying for days. Perhaps she really did believe that this was her ticket to a good priesthood lifestyle. It isn't right that she was brainwashed into believing these things, but it could be an explanation.

Also, I wonder why she didn't leave sooner? She had many opportunities - trips to Canada, Oregon and Vegas. She had her own truck. She had her own money. I understand that it would be difficult to leave your whole life behind. But if I was being frequently raped, beaten and suffering many miscarriages, I think I would find a way. Towards the end she wasn't afraid of the outside world anymore. She had supportive friends, siblings and a boyfriend on the outside. But still she didn't leave until forced to by the discovery of her adultery. It was only one sentence, so you might have missed it, but she says that she and Lamont almost "called it quits" because of her refusal to leave FDLS and Allen. What would she have done then? She was pregnant at the time by Lamont. Would she have tried to pass the baby off as Allen's?

Also, if Allen was so controlling, why was she allowed to do so many things? Why did she have a job, truck, friends and money? If he was really so controlling of her he wouldn't have allowed her to have those things. I have known controlling husbands here in the outside world that effectively deny their wives those things. They don't even have an all knowing evil prophet on their side. Why did he allow her to spend so much time away from home? It seems like such a rigid society would have a way to put a stop to these things.

There are just so many holes in the story. It just leaves me wondering if perhaps she thought she wanted the marriage at 14, but quickly realized differently and the relationship went sour. I don't know what to think, honestly. It seems like some of this story may have been exaggerated for the trial. The discovery (in a later trial) that Elissa asked the midwife that attended her delivery to fake documents is even more disconcerting. The verdict written about at the end of this book has been overturned because of this evidence. Luckily, Jeffs is still in prison because of other crimes.

And don't get me wrong, I'm glad he is. But it's frustrating to spend so much time reading what is supposed to be a truthful memoir, only to be left with so many questions.
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on January 6, 2013
There will always be 3 sides to every story, especially in a biography. What the author says happened, what their detractors say happened and what actually happened. This case is no different. The FLDS church has had issues, that can't be debated. This author has painstakingly written an account of what happened to her and her experiences within that church. She shows an inner strength and gives a voice to the women that this has happened to while also holding herself accountable for the decision and (few) choices she was given in her situation.
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