All my life I’ve been fascinated by polygamy. I’ve read a dozen books on the subject (including Ruth Wariner’s The Sound of Gravel–also excellent) and watched too many television shows and specials, always not quite understanding.
I didn’t know I knew a woman who survived it.
I “met” Anna about a year ago when I participated in Brandon Hatmaker’s book launch group promoting his newest blockbuster A Mile Wide: Trading a Shallow Religion for a Deeper Faith. Basically, everyone in this launch group had at some point in time tried to be in Jen Hatmaker’s launch group for her latest book For the Love: Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards. Apparently, there were so many takers, the powers that be had to draw the line somewhere. EVERYONE IN THE WORLD cannot be on Jen’s launch group! Believe me, the 4500 (that’s what we call ourselves) were plenty pleased to be a part of Brandon’s fan club. He even mentions us in the acknowledgements!
Me, after ripping open the envelope holding Anna’s book.
Anyway, when Anna mentioned she was writing her memoir, a story about surviving a polygamous cult, I asked her if she was related to the LeBarons, because I’ve read about them before. This particular cult was infamous for doctrines supporting blood atonement, and the stories are frightening enough to make your blood run cold. She was indeed.
Anna LeBaron was born into the cult–a dangerous FDLS offshoot that drove its members into Mexico to avoid the authorities. Ervil LeBaron, Anna’s father, controlled the cult with an iron fist and violence–even murder.
Since she was a little girl, Anna remembers a confusing patchwork childhood, where moving in the middle of the night and at a moment’s notice were just daily truths she accepted. Extreme poverty, borderline starvation, long days of forced labor, and constant anxiety haunted her everyday reality. One daughter of many, she was taught her place was to obey and to learn how to be a good wife. At a tender age, she was already promised to two men.
Endless housework and babysitting of siblings and other countless relatives dominated her life, and going to school was a risky endeavor. Police raids in the middle of the night were not uncommon as the authorities narrowed down the whereabouts of Anna’s father and his followers. Anna didn’t understand most of this; she only wanted to be with her mother and to know her father.
Anna’s memoir presents a topsy-turvy reality where nothing makes sense. Each time she makes a friend, or a teacher or acquaintance reaches out to help, you’ll hold your breath for little Anna, hoping this is the time she’ll be led to safety and redemption.
Click here to Pre-order The Polygamist’s Daughter. You won’t be sorry.