Just over two years ago, I met a sweet lady named Anna. She is a fun, bubbly lady with a beautiful smile and a penchant for emojis and exclamation marks. A few months later, we were at a retreat together, and I got to hear her speak about her personal story. Wow. Just wow. Behind Anna’s genuine bright smile is a lifetime of chaos, pain, and God’s redeeming work.

Anna is one of 50 children born to notorious cult leader Ervil LeBaron, also known as the “Mormon Manson” for the way he led his followers to commit murders. LeBaron had 13 wives, including Anna’s mom. Because he was wanted by the federal government, LeBaron and his followers were always on the run, and frequently made sudden cross-country moves. Anna lived in many locations, from Mexico to Colorado, during her childhood. She experienced prolonged separation from her parents, the challenges of poverty, and even FBI raids on her home.

Ervil LeBaron was eventually captured, and he died in prison in 1981. For years, his followers continued to follow his teachings, including polygamy and the murder of cult members who left. At the age of 13, Anna had enough. When the family made another sudden move, she literally walked away. Her adult sister helped hide her until the family was gone, then opened her home to her. Anna began attending a Christian school and church, where she learned about Jesus and grew in relationship with him.

It took years for Anna to work through her difficult childhood and understand that she is so much more than just the cult leader’s daughter. Today she is the mother of four adult children, a speaker, and a newly published author. Her memoir, The Polygamist’s Daughter, was released March 21. Anna is such a sweet friend that when I had knee surgery in December she emailed me a copy of the book so I could read it early while I recovered. I was glued to her story, and I know you will find it fascinating, heartbreaking, and beautiful as well.

I asked Anna a few questions about her book:

Q: Why did you decide to write your story?

A: I wanted to tell the story of the redemption of my family, and our family name, as well as “humanize” the people who were born into the family of Ervil LeBaron. There has been such a stigma attached to that name, and all the shame that goes along with it. Before I could write it, though, I needed to make sure that I was far enough along in my own healing journey so as to not be re-traumatized in the retelling of the stories.

Q: Did you have any concerns for your safety?

A: None whatsoever. I would never have put myself or my children in any kind of danger. There is no one in my family that still believes the extremist and radical teachings of my father.

Q: Your story is amazing, but I know you want to do more than just entertain readers. What are you hoping that readers get out of your story?

A: My hope and prayer is that anyone who has experienced any type of abuse or trauma will find hope and courage within the pages of my book.

Q: I understand you have an “epic book tour” in the works. Are you speaking anywhere in Minnesota?

A: There’s a Barnes & Noble in Minneapolis/St. Paul area that I’m tentatively planning to visit. I don’t have any speaking engagements on the calendar (yet) and am very open to any ideas you may have about that. Book clubs, women’s events, church event, etc.

I’ll be sure and share in the comments when Anna nails down her Minnesota visit, or you can keep tabs on her website, www.annalebaron.com. If you are interested in having Anna speak when she’s here, her contact information is on the site as well.