Elizabeth Esther. Spiritual memoirs are a favorite of mine, so I was extremely excited to read and review this book. Let's get right to it. :)
Our author describes growing up in a Southern California family who became part of a manipulative religious group. Her grandfather started a church that she calls "The Assembly" and it quickly became extremely structured, rule oriented, and ultimately downright abusive, both physically and emotionally. Women did not have much choice in what they wore due to "modesty" rules. They also did not have much choice in their marriage partner due to a heavy hand by church leadership on the pool of prospects. Children were spanked daily from infancy sometimes until they were teenagers in humiliating and painful ways. Some parts of this book were difficult to read, to be honest.
But the story is compelling. Throughout, the reader is of course rooting for the author to come out of this experience unharmed. And as we move along her story, it's impossible not to want to find out what happens next, despite the disturbing events that she is chronicling. Apocalyptic predictions abound in this church, and so she discusses the protocol her father devises should the End come. The author describes being fearful as a child of the Rapture happening and her being "left behind" in a way that just breaks your heart. She was just a little girl, and truly afraid of the abandonment this would entail. Any parent can't help but want to hug her and assure her that everything will be fine.
However, in the environment in which she was raised, children were not made to feel emotionally secure. Their church was built on a very narrow worldview and focused so much on the whim and interpretation of their pastor. Following church guidance was the priority, not comforting the anxieties of children about their future or day-to-day difficulties with their way of life.
This memoir has a different "feel" to it than other religious non-fiction that I've read. It's as if the author is telling us her story while trying to guard herself emotionally from the painful events as much as possible. Given her experience, this is totally understandable, and it provides the reader with a tangible sense of what she went through. Real emotion is conveyed here, the words acting as a conduit into a young life inside an insular religious group.
You'll have to read the book to find out exactly how things turn out for our author, but I'll say this: this book involves a conversion story. And our Blessed Mother is a key part of the emotional healing this author was so badly in need of. :)
This was an excellent and fascinating read, and I highly recommend it. You can read chapter 1 for free here. The book is available via Convergent Books for $14.99 (trade paperback), or $11.99 as an ebook.
*Blogging for Books provided this book to me for free in exchange for an honest review