Friday, July 3, 2009

Review: Lost Boy

Summary: In the polygamous Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (FLDS), girls can become valuable property as plural wives, but boys are expendable, even a liability. In this powerful and heartbreaking account, former FLDS member Brent Jeffs reveals both the terror and the love he experienced growing up on his prophet’s compound—and the harsh exile existence that so many boys face once they have been expelled by the sect.

Brent Jeffs is the nephew of Warren Jeffs, the imprisoned leader of the FLDS. The son of a prominent family in the church, Brent could have grown up to have multiple wives of his own and significant power in the 10,000-strong community. But he knew that behind the group’s pious public image—women in chaste dresses carrying babies on their hips—lay a much darker reality. So he walked away, and was the first to file a sexual-abuse lawsuit against his uncle. Now Brent shares his courageous story and that of many other young men who have become “lost boys” when they leave the FLDS, either by choice or by expulsion.

Brent experienced firsthand the absolute power that church leaders wield—the kind of power that corrupts and perverts those who will do anything to maintain it. Once young men no longer belong to the church, they are cast out into a world for which they are utterly unprepared. More often than not, they succumb to the temptations of alcohol and other drugs.

Tragically, Brent lost two of his brothers in this struggle, one to suicide, the other to overdose. In this book he shows that lost boys can triumph and that abuse and trauma can be overcome, and he hopes that readers will be inspired to help former FLDS members find their way in the world. -- Broadway

I was pretty happy when I found out that I was being sent a copy of LOST BOY by Brent W. Jeffs with Maia Szalavitz as part of the Library Thing Early Reviewer Program. I am a regular viewer of the HBO series Big Love, and I'm strangely fascinated with the beliefs of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (FLDS.) I knew this book was going to be one of those tell-all books, but I had no idea just how amazing Brent Jeffs' story is.

It's difficult to say that I could actually enjoy a book like this, so I'll say that I found it very interesting and almost unbelievable. When I use the term "unbelievable," I don't mean that I didn't find the book truthful; rather I am just blown away by Brent Jeffs' story. As I read this book, I was utterly disgusted by how much damage Warren Jeffs did to so many people. I almost hate to admit this, but one of the main reasons I wanted to read this book was to get details about Warren Jeffs. I'm not going to go into specifics here because I don't want to give away too much of Jeffs' story; however, suffice it to say, that the mental and physical abuse that took place in this church is horrific.

I guess what amazed me most about this book was that ultimately, it wasn't just a sensationalized account of Warren Jeffs and the FLDS. As sad as this book was (and it is very, very sad), I actually found this book to be uplifting. I have so much respect for Brent Jeffs. I am amazed by how he was able to work through his problems (unlike so many members of his family) and eventually find love and happiness. I can't imagine even surviving what Brent Jeffs went though, but that he was able to open up and share his story with so many others is remarkably brave to me. Even when he decided to go after Warren Jeffs, his motives were about saving others -- he didn't do it for financial gain.

I also thought it was very interesting how the author portrayed his parents. Despite their questionable parenting skills, he shows them as loving parents who were caught up in a bad situation. It was clear that he has a good relationship with both of his parents and loves them despite their lack of support when he was young. He also showed how difficult the FLDS rules were for his parents to follow, and I eventually found myself feeling sorry for them (once I got over my anger for certain aspects of their behavior.) I think the love of his family and his respect for his parents helped him work through his abuse and start a new life.

I was a little bit surprised that Brent Jeffs wrote this book with another author because at times, I didn't really think the writing was polished. I thought the first part of the book was much rougher than the second. I'm not sure if the writing detracted from my appreciation of the book because it read like Brent Jeffs was telling his story to me -- maybe that was the authors' and editors' intent. All I'm saying is that I was surprised to find that someone helped him write it.

Check out the LOST BOY book trailer:

Just seeing the places that Brent Jeffs talked about in this book is very interesting to me. I can't imagine how difficult it was for him to go back and re-visit that place. I don't know what I was expecting, but seeing it on video really made it real for me. It's so hard to imagine how devastating this lifestyle was to so many young men and women.

If your book club enjoys reading non-fiction or memoirs, then LOST BOY might be a good fit for your group. I was slightly surprised that there is a reading guide available for this book, but the more I think about it, the more I can see the value in discussing this book. I thought the discussion questions were very thought-provoking, and I think it would be very interesting to hear my friends' opinions on Brent Jeffs and his family. In fact, as I was reading this book, I kept telling my family and friends things that happened in this book because I so wanted to talk about it with someone!


bermudaonion said...

I'm oddly fascinated by the FLDS for some strange reason, too. Right before I started my blog, I went through a phase where I read everything about them I could find. I drove everyone crazy talking about it. I'd like to read this book to get the male perspective.

Beth F said...

We also watch Big Love and I'm fascinated by the lifestyle/religion as well. The roughness in the book may have been fixed in editing, since it looks like you got an ARC. I will most likely pick this one up, but I'll look for the finished copy.

Holly (2 Kids and Tired) said...

Great review. This one intrigues me.

Gwendolyn B. said...

I've never watched Big Love, but I've been interested in Mormanism for a long time. I suppose all religions have their fundamentalist. I really enjoyed your review and I'll be on the lookout for this book.

Jenny Girl said...

An intersting and powerful book to be sure. I never considered the boys of that sect before. Poor guys!