Tuesday, April 5, 2016
"The Witness Wore Red" by Rebecca Musser
I know, I know... another audio-book about a cult. It's one of my guilty pleasures. My last audio-book review was for "The Sound of Gravel" by Ruth Wariner which you can read here if you missed it. Like Wariner's memoir, The Witness Wore Red is also about life as a child in an FLDS community. Rebecca Musser's story is a more well-known, highly publicized account.
Rebecca Musser, aka Becky as referred to in the book, was born into a polygamist family. Her mother was the second wife of her father. The families shared the same house and her and her siblings were often abused by her father's first wife. Receiving an education at Alta Academy, the FLDS's prestigious school headed by Warren Jeffs, she was brainwashed into believing that everyone from the outside world was a danger to her and her people. At age 19 she became the 19th wife to Rulon Jeffs, the 85 year old prophet.
This lengthy book goes into the exquisitely detailed account of Rebecca's life growing up in the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, her escape from the community, and her life thereafter. The title of the book relates to her many court appearances, wearing the forbidden color red, as she testified against leaders of the church.
While listening to the author herself read the book I couldn't help but take note about all the things that just seemed too much. She seemed to over simplify the explanation of religious aspects of her church. These are things that I felt needed to be explained more, since most people have no clue the religious ceremonies and beliefs she is referencing. At the same time, she went into great detail about court proceedings and how the court system works, something most people know the basics of and long explanations aren't needed.
There were also times when she used 3 or 4 multi syllable words in the same sentence. I had to roll my eyes because it seemed as if she had a thesaurus on hand at all times when writing. At other times it seemed like she was writing poetry rather than a memoir. Let me give you an example of a sentence:
"In the burning colors of dawn the simmering Texas sun suddenly burst out of the thinning clouds. The rays seemed to caress my skin little by little, with prickles of warmth and light filling me like I had never been filled before."
It was just too much description than what I felt a person was able to remember from years ago. She gives VERY detailed accounts of conversations she and law enforcement had during the investigation also, which seemed impossible to remember from such a long time ago.
During her description of the raid and her helping Texas Rangers walk through the FLDS temple she went off into long, rambling religious memories and intricate details of FLDS beliefs. It seemed like an inappropriate time to take away from such an important part of the story.
Long after her escape from the community and even long past her marriage and the birth of her kids she continued to play a victim. She made such a huge deal to her husband, and to the reader, about helping out and doing what she could to help her sisters, mother, and other family members who were still apart of the FLDS community, yet her reasons always ended with stories about her. It was just off-putting. It made it really hard to fully sympathize with her.
The beginning of the book about her childhood years and her marriage to Rulon Jeffs was the most interesting. She quickly glosses over her escape which was an event that seemed to warrant more than a couple pages of description. As she helps investigators prepare for the raid and later approaches the trial the story becomes her just arguing with her inner self and her husband over personal feelings. It was like listening to a Hallmark movie of the week.
This was a 2 star read for me. I did learn new things about the inner workings of FLDS, but the interesting facts were few and far between. This read more like a self-praise book written solely for the author to bask in her greatness. Don't get me wrong, her story is brave and inspiring. I just feel her approach to tell the story seemed to glamorize herself instead of informing others about the inner workings of the FLDS.