Book Review: The Witness Wore Red

Newbery and Beyond Book Review: The Witness Wore Red | Pretty Darn Good
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Whoa, this one was an emotional roller coaster!  This memoir follows Rebecca’s time in the polygamous cult called the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS).  She speaks about the constant abuse (mostly sexual) in the cult, from her own childhood molestation by her half brother; to her marriage as the nineteenth wife (out of an eventual 67 wives!) to the cult’s 85-year-old Prophet and his sexual demands; to Warren Jeffs, the eventual leader of the cult, who married nearly 100 women, many of whom were underage, and forced his followers to give in to his bizarre sexual demands.

This book was fascinating, and I couldn’t believe how much of this I hadn’t heard about (the events of the book took place only a couple of years ago).  I had heard some of the rumors about the temple in Eldorado, Texas, but I had no idea how much was going on behind the scenes.  The first half of the book tells about Rebecca’s childhood and early adulthood, her hidden life as a child of the second wife, her education and indoctrination, her first marriage to Rulon, the 85-year-0ld Prophet, and her escape from the cult after Rulon died.  The second half talks about the compound in Eldorado, Texas, and Rebecca’s struggle to balance her time helping with the officials there and trying to support her two children and her crumbling marriage to another former FLDS member.  So many of the events recorded in this book are horrific, but somehow, Rebecca struggles to use her experiences to help other young girls from suffering the same fate that she and her sisters had.

It was incredible to find out how people in a cult truly think, and how difficult it is to get out.  Even Rebecca’s own mother, siblings, and sister-wives turned on her as she provided testimony for several court cases involving the FLDS community, as they thought she had turned on them.  They truly believed that the only was to assure salvation for themselves was to blindly follow the Prophet, and whatever his whims happened to be became law.  Women were treated like chattel, baby-making machines who were meant to fulfill their husband’s every wish and “keep sweet.”  (It’s amazing how sickening such a simple phrase can become when it’s used to mute complaints, fears, and requests for basic human rights.)  All the FLDS members were trained to thwart the government officials at every turn, truly believing that they were doing what was righteous in God’s eyes.

Read this book.  Not because it’s fun (I felt a little queasy the entire time I was reading it), and not because it’s page-turningly addictive (although it is), but because it’s important.  Things like this still happen, in the U.S. and around the world, and we as outsiders can neither turn a blind eye to it nor judge without knowing the background of the community.  It’s a difficult balancing act, and Rebecca gives us some insight into how to do it.

Rating: Pretty Darn Good

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