The best novels about escaping polygamist cults

Who am I?

Living in southern Utah for many years, I saw first-hand the polygamist communities of Colorado City, Arizona and Hilldale, Utah. It always intrigued me that these people still held on to the beliefs and teachings of the early Mormon leaders regardless of the laws or scorn of those who lived around them. The research I did for The Treasure of Cedar Creek, was about polygamy, but also the history of the area of Idaho where the novel takes place and how it would be as a woman not only trying to escape, but facing the challenges of the terrain and perceptions of the day.


I wrote...

The Treasure of Cedar Creek

By Brenda Stanley,

Book cover of The Treasure of Cedar Creek

What is my book about?

In 1896, the isolated and vast state of Idaho is a haven for the polygamous splinter group called The Kingdom of Glory, which is hiding more than their outlawed practice of plural marriage.

Peri, who escaped the Cedar Creek compound years earlier, returns to help rescue Grace, a girl betrothed to the prophet himself, she ends up also saving her own sister Emma. As the three women make a frantic and deadly escape from the compound, they take with them both the newborn heir to the church, and their dead mother’s cryptic journal to the prophet’s hidden treasure. Along their journey, the women realize to truly be free they must face what holds them captive, even if those answers are more horrifying than they ever imagined.

The books I picked & why

Shepherd is reader supported. We may earn an affiliate commission when you buy through links on our website. This is how we fund this project for readers and authors (learn more).

The 19th Wife

By David Ebershoff,

Book cover of The 19th Wife

Why this book?

I love escaping into a story, and if it is historical fiction, I want it to be historically accurate. By telling the story in both the present day and in the past, I was intrigued and this kept me reading. The novel is based on the experiences of a real woman living in polygamy but tells the story of what happened then and how it affects the lives of others later. It may be fictional, but the historical accuracy made the story come to life. I could feel her angst with being part of her family, but also knowing she didn’t want this life.


The Scent of Rain

By Anne Montgomery,

Book cover of The Scent of Rain

Why this book?

This book was so hard for me to put down. I was caught up in the many twists and turns, and wanted to know how this young girl would escape. This story not only looks at the horrors of modern-day polygamist cults but also the challenges of the foster care system. I was swept up and cheering her on as she escaped into the treacherous terrain of the Arizona desert. With Montgomery’s vivid descriptions, I could feel the heat and the struggles these young people faced while trying to escape. This book is beautifully written and had me connected to the characters from the beginning.


Stolen Innocence: My Story of Growing Up in a Polygamous Sect, Becoming a Teenage Bride, and Breaking Free of Warren Jeffs

By Elissa Wall,

Book cover of Stolen Innocence: My Story of Growing Up in a Polygamous Sect, Becoming a Teenage Bride, and Breaking Free of Warren Jeffs

Why this book?

I found Wall’s first-hand account of what life is like inside a polygamist cult to be both revealing and tragic. The book is nonfiction but reads like a novel. I loved how the pages were full of descriptive passages that gave me an insider’s view of what these young girls are taught and must face as child brides. It helped me see that what began decades before is still happening under a cloak of secrecy. I found this book revealing and disturbing, and one I couldn’t put down.


The Sound of Gravel: A Memoir

By Ruth Wariner,

Book cover of The Sound of Gravel: A Memoir

Why this book?

I felt this story was so real and powerful because it is told from the perspective of a young girl. The book is a true story of a polygamist cult living in Mexico to avoid prosecution. I was given a first-hand account of the isolation and indoctrination of the children and how they are taught that their only path to heaven is through this lifestyle. I could feel the angst of the decisions and struggles with family loyalties that these girls face. I was drawn into this story because of its tale of tragedy, and I loved that eventually, it became one of courage and triumph.


Keep Sweet

By Michele Dominguez Greene,

Book cover of Keep Sweet

Why this book?

I read this book in two days because the story kept pulling me back. It’s a YA novel that is accurate and haunting in its telling of the life of a young girl trapped in a polygamist cult. I loved how realistic this story felt. To explore what happens when this girl is caught going against the teachings of the cult and the horrific ramifications had me wanting to know what would happen next. I found this book so intriguing and came away with an interesting perspective on the issue of modern-day polygamy.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in polygamy, cults, and murders?

5,887 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about polygamy, cults, and murders.

Polygamy Explore 12 books about polygamy
Cults Explore 23 books about cults
Murders Explore 334 books about murders

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Freckled, All Who Go Do Not Return, and Leaving the Witness if you like this list.