6 Stories Of Escape And Redemption – From High-Profile Kidnapping Memoirs To Tales Of Escape From Polygamist Cults

 

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Escape By Carolyn Jessop and Laura Palmer

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This is a first person account of Carolyn Jessop’s experience growing up as a polygamist in the FLDS and being married to a man three times her age. Her stories of abuse and torment as the fourth wife of Meryl Jessop and as the mother of their eight children, are equal parts enlightening and heartbreaking. The recounting of her harrowing escape from the sect and of the life she has built for herself since, will truly inspire you.

My Story By Elizabeth A. Smart And Chris Stewart

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I just finished Elizabeth Smart’s memoir about her kidnapping at the hands of a duo of religious fanatic wannabes by the names of Brian David Mitchell and Wanda Barzee. Even more dramatic than the account of how Elizabeth was taken from her bed as an 14-year-old innocent Mormon girl in the middle of the night, are the levels of abuse she experienced at the hands of her captors. Through nine traumatic months, Elizabeth demonstrated incredible strength and presence of mind, keeping her hope for salvation and herself alive through her faith.

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Favorite Wife: Escape From Polygamy By Susan Ray Schmidt

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The polygamist sect that Susan Ray Schmidt was brought up in was, if possible, even more extreme than the FLDS. At only fifteen, Susan is informed by church elder Verlan LeBaron that he has had a revelation informing him that she is to become his sixth wife. Before Susan’s eventual escape many years later, the story first takes her through pregnancies, privations, jealousies, poverty, breaks within the church’s leadership and even a move from Mexico to Nicaragua. This story would be unbelievable if it weren’t that it actually happened. Of interest, Verlan’s first wife Irene also wrote her own memoir, Shattered Dreams.

Finding Me: A Decade Of Darkness, A Life Reclaimed: A Memoir of the Cleveland Kidnappings By Michelle Knight With Michelle Burford

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Everyone remembers the day when three girls were saved from years of captivity in Cleveland at the hands of the monster Ariel Castro. This is Michelle Knight’s account of her experiences during that decade. It is one of the more horrific kidnapping memoirs I’ve read, with graphic details of the torture Michelle suffered through. Not for the faint of heart, but filled with inspiring redemption in Michelle’s success in turning her life around and becoming a symbol of resilience after her ordeal.

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Pilgrim’s Wilderness: A True Story of Faith and Madness on the Alaska Frontier By Tom Kizzia

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At first Papa Pilgrim (Robert Hale=, his wife and their fifteen children seem the epitome of a hard-working, pious Christian family. Tom Kizzia soon starts to separate fact from fiction, though, as he figures out that Papa Pilgrim is essentially a sociopath whose primary intention in moving his large family to Alaska is to be able to continue to emotionally and sexually abuse his children in isolation. Amid battles with government authorities, increasingly erratic behavior on the part of Hale and a courageous testimony from his first-born daughter Elishaba, you’ll be hoping Hale gets what is coming to him.

A Stolen Life: A Memoir By Jaycee Duggard

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Like Elizabeth Smart, Jaycee Duggard was kidnapped when she was only 11 years old. Like Michelle Knight, her captivity lasted for many years – 18 in fact. Jaycee’s experience at the hands of her captor Phillip Garrido differs however in that her memoir is heavily based on the journals she was allowed to keep throughout her captivity, as well as by the fact that Jaycee gave birth to two innocent children as a result of her sexual abuse. Her daughters were already 11 and 15 respectively when they were all finally freed.

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Links I Loved This Week- 08/12/2016

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  • I really liked Grace’s August reading suggestions on The Stripe – she’s on a definite Liane Moriarty kick, and so has been everyone else. I guess it’s time to check out what all the fuss is about.
  • This post on how to stop chasing happiness with 17 alternative tips on how to live your best possible life really hit home, especially this part – “trying to be happy is like trying to get to sleep; the harder you try, the less likely it is to happen”. We’ve all been there, right?
  • Mesmerized by this video of tango dancing on an open-air water fountain in Bordeux, France. It’s from May but I just found it, so that counts.
  • I’ve finally been validated in my OCDness by a Princeton University study that proved clutter makes it harder to focus. Here is some OCD porn courtesy of a Verily magazine post on organization-themed instagram accounts.
  • A list of 15 documentaries to watch on Netflix from Camille Styles. I’ve seen three out of fifteen on the list (Twinsters, Fist Position and The September Issue) which were all great, so I’m assuming their other picks are definitely worth watching as well.
  • This incredible hypnotic video of a book being made with an old fashioned printing press.
  • I loved these art prints picturing regular women going about their regular business, titled What Do Women Do When No One Is Watching.
  • And lastly a hilarious rabbit doppleganger list – because, rabbits.

6 Unforgettable Medical Memoirs – Stories Of Resilience And Renewed Hope

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My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey by Jill Bolte Taylor

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Imagine if you had been trained for years on the exact inner workings of your brain, only to experience the most devastating medical problem that a human brain can face -a stroke – first-hand. Jill Bolte Taylor is a brain scientist who experienced a stroke at only 37 years old. As she can feel her brain lose its function on that fateful morning, Bolte Taylor focuses on all the pertinent medical knowledge she can about what is happening to her to try marshall her brain to call for help. Her story of recovery is unlike any other, as she’s intimately knowledgable of the biology of what she’s experienced.

 

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Ghost Boy: The Miraculous Escape of a Misdiagnosed Boy Trapped Inside His Own Body by Martin Pistorius

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At only age 12, Martin Pistorius was hit by a mysterious degenerative disease that left him unable to speak, eat and move. His family, believing him to be barely conscious, installed him in various institutions for the disabled during the subsequent 14 years. But only 4 years after his initial decline, at age 16, Martin reawakens, trapped inside his unresponsive body. This is the incredible story of Martin’s efforts to reconnect with the world around him and to demonstrate to others that he’s still present. You’ll be amazed at the progress he has made by the end of the book.

 

OnMyOwnTwoFeetBookCoverOn My Own Two Feet: From Losing My Legs to Learning the Dance of Life by Amy Purdy 

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Amy was only a young woman of nineteen when bacterial meningitis led to the partial amputation of both her legs. Her harrowing illness led to a slow recovery that initially seemed to be within the norm – like any person would after such a traumatic change, Amy struggled with her image, her moods, and with finding the right prosthetics. Her incredible spirit showed through, however, in her ability to go further than most of us would ever dream in her place. Believe it or not, she is now a Paralympic snowboarder and former Dancing With The Stars contestant. This is her story.

 

 

BrainOnFireBookCoverùBrain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan

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At 24 years old and starting her career as a reporter for the New York Post, Susannah Cahalan had her whole life ahead of her. Previously extremely healthy, Susannah started out of nowhere to hallucinate and experience boughts of amnesia. This is the story of her downward spiral into ‘madness’, being diagnosed as insane and potentially schizophrenic. If it hadn’t been for a miraculous last-minute diagnosis of her mysterious but curable disorder, Susannah may still be locked up in a mental institution, having forfeited her personality and her ability to have her story heard. This book was scary, beautifully written and luckily with a happy ending.

 

UnmeasuredStrengthBookCoverUnmeasured Strength by Lauren Manning

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On the morning of 9/11, Lauren Manning was standing at the foot of one of the World Trade Center towers, when a flood of flames from the impact of an airliner above burned her over 80% of her body. On a day when so many perished, Lauren was given the chance to survive, though she had to resort to every ounce of her inner strength to get through the 10 years of recovery and the mental anguish that resulted from her injuries. An inspiring story of patience in the face of incredible pain, true love and the power of faith.

 

 

 

51sXaN3ereLA Quiet Room: A Journey Out Of The Torment Of Madness by Lori Schiller

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Unlike Susan Calahan, Lori Schiller actually suffered from full-blown schizophrenia since about 17 years of age. She spent years of her life between suicide attempts, bouncing from one medical institution to the other, battling drug addictions and being closed in ‘Quiet Rooms’ to decompress and for her own safety. Her story is hard to read, as the voices in her head, which she faithfully relates to the reader, are profane, hateful and unremitting. Lori was ultimately able to escape her demons in part through the advent of new more effective medication, which has allowed her to experience a relatively normal from middle age onwards.

 

Do you have a favorite medical memoir to recommend?

Here are a few of the past book lists you can find on my blog:

Six Unbelievable Books About Scientology

Let The Games Begin! Books About The Olympics

August 2016 Book Releases To Look Forward To

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National Book Lovers Day And The Biblioteca Nazionale Braidense In Milan

I’m in Milan for a few weeks visiting my family and I almost forgot it was National Books Lovers Day today!

The Biblioteca Nazionale Braidense – a beautiful historical library in Milan – is currently closed through the 16th of August, but I had the chance of visiting it last Saturday before it closed and it was absolutely breathtaking.

I thought National Book Lovers Day was a perfect day to share images of this special library and memories of my visit.

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The Biblioteca Nazionale Braidense is a public library founded by Maria Theresa of Austria, which opened in 1786 in the Palazzo Di Brera, a beautiful city palace constructed by the Jesuits in the 17th Century.

The various halls of the library are elaborately decorated and it has that unmissable, comforting old-book smell. Aside from the towering, wooden, two-story bookcases, the most stunning aspect of each of the library’s rooms were their vaulted and often painted ceilings, and decadent chandeliers.

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Currently, the library is one of 47 Italian state libraries and houses over 800,000 volumes, including historical and literary works like the manuscripts and correspondence of famed italian writer Alessandro Manzoni of the Promessi Sposi.

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If you’re ever in Milan, make sure to check it out after spending a couple hours at the Pinacoteca Di Brera art museum, which is located in the same building.

What beautiful historic libraries have you visited around the world?

Author Spotlight: Robert K. Massie’s Biographies On Tsarist Russia

When I discovered Robert K. Massie’s books on tsarist Russia’s Romanov family I realized I had struck historical nonfiction gold.

Tragically, the author’s interest in the Romanov dynasty began with the discovery that his own newborn son suffered from hemophilia, a disease which also affected tsar Nicholas II’s son Alexis Nikolaevich.

You might expect a pedantic writing style from a Yale and Oxford educated Rhodes Scholar, but Massie brings his training as a journalist to his prose. What results is highly-accessible and still richly-evocative portraits of some of Russia’s most storied tsars and tsarinas.

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Nicholas And Alexandra: The Classic Account Of The Fall Of The Romanov Dynasty

Published: 1967, reissued November 2011
Length: 673 pages

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Though published in the 1960s, Nicholas and Alexandra remains the definitive account of the lives of the last Romanov Tsar and Tsarina. It starts with the improbable story of how a Princess from a small German state was selected to become Empress of Russia. Alexandra’s strong, overbearing personality is contrasted to her husband’s relatively weak demeanor, and her influence essentially directs his political decisions. The happiness of the couple at producing a male heir (after four daughters) is short-lived with the discovery he suffers from the then deadly disease of hemophilia. As mystical faith healer Rasputin’s influence on Alexandra increases due to her distress over her sons’s illness, the Russian people’s disaffection with their distant monarchs propels the country towards a revolution that will ultimately spell a bloody end for the Romanov dynasty. I couldn’t put this book down.

 

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The Romanovs: The Final Chapter

Published: 1995, reissued February 2012
Length: 320 pages

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Considered in part a more recent update to Nicholas and Alexandra’s story, The Romanovs: The Final Chapter also stands on its own as a chilling scientific account of the efforts to recover and identify the purported remains of the Romanov family.

After the demise of Soviet Communism brought to light the prior 1979 discovery of the possible grave of the Romanov royals, an examination of the remains was conducted by an international team of forensic specialists to determine their authenticity. Massie adds details to the tragic story of the capture, prisony and assassination of the Romanovs and of the expert effort to determine the provenance of these remains. Interweaved is also a thorough analysis of Anna Anderson’s claims to be Nicholas and Alexandra’s remaining living daughter Anastasia.

 

51aCH9YCAoLCatherine The Great: Portrait Of A Woman

Published: November 2011
Length: 656 pages

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Winner of the Andrew Carnegie Medal For Excellence In Nonfiction in 2012

Though empress Alexandra’s story of rise from unknown German princess to Russian tsarina is remarkable, Catherine The Great’s similar beginnings led to an even more incredible result. After being plucked from relative obscurity and married to Russian heir to the throne Peter III, Catherine quickly realized her husband was no match for her strength of character or intelligence. Unable to count on him as an effective ruler on his ascension or even as a viable partner to produce an heir, Catherine took matters into her own hands. While Peter was still alive, she took a lover to secure the royal family’s line of succession and then orchestrated a coup d’etat after his assassination, installing herself as empress. She became the longest ruling female monarch in Russia and her reign is often considered as the Golden Age of the Russian Empire.

 

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Peter The Great: His Life And World

Published: 1980, reissued February 2012
Length: 928 pages

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Winner of the Pulitzer Prize For Biography in 1981

Peter The Great’s rule established the Romanov dynasty, preceding that of all other tsars and tsarinas covered in Massie’s books. Through significant territorial gains, Peter turned Russia into an empire and speerheaded a series of Enlightenment inspired reforms that modernized the country’s military,its educational system and its government, transforming Russia into a great European nation in its own right.

This is actually the only one of Massie’s books on tsarist Russia that I have yet to read. Now that I’ve been reminded of how much I loved reading his other works, I’m adding it to my short term list.

 

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Links I Loved This Week

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  • I really liked this post about how to create your Zen-Den on Best Kept Self. My morning yoga and meditation routines have been feeling a little haphazard, and I think some of these suggestions might help with getting in the right mood.
  • Starbucks granitas now available after 3PM. Coffee granita? Don’t mind if I do.
  • Orecchiette may just be my favorite shape of pasta and this simple summer recipe that pairs them with cherry tomatoes and arugula looks dee-licious.
  • This white hydrangea iphone background. Changing mine immediately.
  • A VERY tongue-in-cheek article about how hard it is for women in the workforce to strike the right balance between being assertive and pushy – 9 Non-Threatening Leadership Strategies For Women.
  • This is worth a rewatch. Michelle Obama, ladies and gentlemen.
  • I’m always looking for a new easy toast idea to make for lunch or dinner, and A Cup Of Jo’s Tomato And Hummus Tartine is making me salivate.
  • Pretty much my exact workout philosophy, so I really connected with this article. Dance parties in your room 100% count as exercise.
  • This wonderful art print. Make sure to always water your own garden first.
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