4 out of 5 stars

Rebecca Stott’s father had been wanting to write a memoir about his family life. For generations, his family had been members of a Christian sect that had steadily got more fundamentalist. He could only brush the surface of the past though as every time he ventured deeper into his memories the mental anguish meant that he could not carry on. When he was dying, he tried to persuade her to help him.

Rebecca had grown up in this Brethren sect too, with its draconian rules about what the members could and mostly couldn’t do, she was constrained in almost every activity that a normal child would have taken part in. They attended school but were not allowed to participate in any activities other than the learning. It was cruel too, with long term members being ‘denounced’ for the most arbitrary of reasons. The sect imploded to a certain extent after a sex scandal involving the American leader of the sect, JT Junior.

Her family dropped out too after this event, but because the cult had been so suffocating the family so much, they all struggled to re-connect with the normal world. The messages and culture that the cult had delivered had permeated her entire being. They began to rebuild their lives in their own way, she rebelled a little, had a child, dabbled in drugs and even managed to go to university, shoplifted and was afraid of the dark, but couldn’t even begin to tell people why this was.

The book is divided into rough thirds, “Before,” “During” and “Aftermath”, which were the piles of files and effects that she sorted through of her fathers at the time. It is pretty horrific reading at times, in particular about the levels of control that were exercised over the members, and the utter trust they had in the leaders of the cult. Just decompressing from the grip of the cult took a staggering amount of effort for them all. It is a deeply personal book, thankfully Stott writes with integrity and doesn’t try to blame anyone for her earlier life. Well worth reading for those that want a very different biography and to get some insight as to when does faith become a cult?

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