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I was introduced to Anna Lebaron when I joined the launch team that she was leading for Bob Goff‘s new book Everybody Always. In the beginning I didn’t realize that she was an author herself, but what I did realize from my first social media interactions with her was how genuinely friendly, nice, and fun she was. Book launching is part of her job, but she went above and beyond to make us all feel part of the team and really get to know us (as much as social media allows). So, of course, when I finally found out about her memoir (which by the way she never once mentioned on the launch team, I only found out about it when I started to follow her on social media), I had to read it.
To be honest, I don’t read a lot of memoirs, so this was a bit of a new genre for me, but one I’ve been wanting to get into and that I definitely plan on reading more of after this book. The Polygamist’s Daughter is Anna’s memoir of growing up as one of more than fifty (no that’s not a typo) children of her father, Ervil Lebaron (a famous polygamist and murderer). The last sentence of the back cover states it perfectly (as it should), “A shocking true story of murder, fear, and betrayal, The Polygamist’s Daughter is also the heart-cry of a fatherless girl and her search for love, faith, and a safe place to call home.”
Anna did a fantastic job of balancing the honesty and transparency with which she told her story while still maintaining a level of respect and empathy for her mother and the rest of her family. She told the truth without being hateful, derogatory, or demeaning. The book often reads like a suspense novel you can’t put down, always wanting to know what will happen next. I can not imagine how difficult it must have been for Anna to relive some of the moments that she discussed in her story, but I am so thankful that she was willing to face them again, because I believe her story packs a powerful message of God’s love, mercy, and healing.
For most of her childhood, Anna’s father and much of her family was on the run from the law, due to her family’s illegal activities per the instruction of her father. This meant that Anna was often shipped from sister-wife to sister-wife, home to home, without much stability. In addition to abandonment, she endured child labor, unsafe living conditions, and much more during this time. The examples she gives of working in her family’s appliance shop at a very young age, being put in charge of kids not much younger than her when she wasn’t old enough to care for herself, unimaginable loss, and various other injustices are shocking to read about and difficult to imagine.
However, praise the Lord, Anna’s story doesn’t stop there. While all of those aspects are truths within this book, a larger truth reigns supreme, not only in this book, but in Lebaron’s life…the truth of God’s love and grace. After all of this suffering, Anna found Christ through attending a youth group, and it changed her entire perspective, her entire life. As she states, “Finally, I accepted that the Cross of Christ was enough. I didn’t have to work to be good enough; I didn’t have to perform to an impossible standard. He accepted me because of what Jesus had done for me”.
The Polygamist’s Daughter begins as a book of mistreatment, injustice, and sadness, but it ends as a story of God’s love, grace, and mercy. It is a story of redemption and hope in the darkest of circumstances. I would highly recommend this book, without hesitation.