I find it pretty uncanny that even as my Comprehensive Exam looms closer and my reading list seems to grow denser, part of my brain still yearns for a good read. Aside from my usual Shakespearean fare, my choice of leisure-time reading usually involves some element of biography, be it the historically-fictive biographies of English queens by Philippa Gregory, or the autobiographies of people who have escaped the physically and spiritually oppressive world of the FLDS under fallen ‘prophet’ Warren Jeffs (who doesn’t even deserve the respect of a hyperlink).
Lost Boy falls under the latter category, but it is the first such book I’ve read that’s been written from a man’s perspective. Brent W. Jeffs is Warren Jeffs’ nephew, and at five years old, his uncle molested him in the washroom of the Church school. Can you imagine? Neither could he: Brent’s mind pushed that trauma so deep down that, only after his brother had admitted to suffering similar abuse and subsequently committed suicide, the nightmares of his past started to reveal themselves in his dreams.
I say I don’t enjoy reading books about suffering, but somehow, I keep coming back to the FLDS compound in the twin cities of Colorado City, Arizona, and Hildale, Utah. These people fight tooth and nail to be able to pursue their religious values in peace, and when conducted properly, this religion promises its adherents a family so close-knit that even death cannot do them part. Along this vein, it reminds me of the family values taught by my own religion, and reminds me of Shylock’s words: “for sufferance is the badge of our tribe.” The difference: absolute power corrupts absolutely. Each of these books begins with a look back to the halcyon days of past prophets and prairie fairs, only building up pathos for a time when Warren Jeffs would come to power, banishing the colour red, euthanizing all dogs, and forcing girls as young as twelve to enter into spiritual (not to mention polygamous) marriages with men their fathers’ age.
What keeps me coming back is that I can be comforted by the fact that if the book exists, it means that its author has triumphed over the most brutal kind of adversity: alienation from their family, friends, the only value system they ever knew, and the fear of eternal damnation. But they do. They move on to escape the compound, marry and have their own children. Sometimes they are able to get back in touch with their parents, who they never seem to find it in themselves to blame for playing such a significant part in their torturous past. More optimistically, they’re always sure in their convictions that they are going to learn from the trauma of their past and make sure the next generation will be loved and cared for in the way that every child deserves.