This book does an excellent job of capturing, in a matter-of-fact narrative delivered in unembellished prose, a picture of what it was like to have been born circa the 70's to parents who joined the "Children of God" cult (which now goes by "The Family International"), and to have been raised there.
Although I grew up in "Family" cult communes in another continent half a world away, not knowing the authors (except for seeing videos and pictures of Celeste Jones at Music With Meaning, which the cult published and circulated), as I read "Not Without my Sister" I recognized the various directives from the cult leaders' "letters" that the authors mentioned - and the unfortunately mirrored consequences when the adults around us implemented those directives on me and the other children around me.
So many of the incidents that the 3 authors recount and the trademark environments, atmosphere and modus operandi during the various phases of the cult's history, echo uncannily with what I experienced and saw when I was confined in that insular world. Like the authors as children, it was the only world I had ever known; escape from servitude and a better future seemed impossible dreams. I think the authors handled particularly effectively the challenge of communicating, in a direct and almost conversational manner notably devoid of melodramatics, a child's inner experience of confusion and entrapment in the face of cult-approved and sponsored molestation and exploitation delivered by the perpetrators in tones of religious devotion and of being all "sweetness and light". Disabling distress is felt when one has no other frame of reference to confirm the unruly feelings that all was not well, feelings that went against something we were raised to think was "of God" while surrounded only by grown-ups who embraced that ethos (or were not sufficiently concerned about us children to confront it).
I should note for others raised in that cult that the reading brought back so much of what I experienced and saw that at times the painful memories were too much to continue and I had to put the book down for a time. If, on the other hand, you are unfamiliar with the cult, you may wonder why I would continue reading when that was the case. This brings me to one reason why it is so important that a book has finally been written about childhoods in a cult that has sunk enormous efforts and resources into rewriting its history (aided by certain "academic" types and others that have come within its sphere of influence) in its pursuit of recognition, acceptance and the resulting financial success it craves, all while being unwilling to make reparations to the children who were abused by it. There is a source of pain far greater than bad memories, which can be lethal to sanity and hope: being told that what you remember did not happen, that you are crazy, that you are lying. It is maddening enough when it is various perpetrators; it is absolutely devastating when it is, say, a parent.
As part of the first wave of children born into captivity in the "Family", I ran away one pre-dawn into the unknown, a minor in a 3rd world country at a time when those born in the cult did not leave it (unless, say, you became a runaway, perhaps never heard from again). I had never met or spoken with any relatives outside the cult to whom I could turn.
For what seemed like forever, I felt so alone without anybody else who could bear witness to what happened. I had no examples to show that there could be a future after that childhood, that one could get an education and carve out a fate other than the self-destruction the cult predicted for its "backslidden" children. If I were to dare that today, I would have this book, and my suffering would be immeasurably lessened.
In fact, back then, Kristina Jones' was one of the first voices I heard that bore witness. It seems that her sisters Celeste and Juliana take after that same courage.
This book strikes a blow against child abuse in all its guises, because the perpetrators' wager is that even if you live, you will not tell. However, this book also renders a very specific public service because, while The Family International may not be original among child abusers in the crimes it committed against children, it definitely pushed the envelope in its sustained operation - under the guise of a "Christian" movement - of an international clandestine conspiracy that carried out, covered for and profited from such exploits as child abuse, rape, incest, kidnapping, false imprisonment, torture, child slave labor and trafficking, prostitution, money laundering and medical neglect of minors (like me - I suffered severe and irreversible consequences affecting basic physical functions) and of vulnerable adults, which neglect sometimes resulted in negligent homicide, as my case almost did.
The Family International is now intent on strengthening its foothold in respectable circles that do not know its past, often putting forward as Project Managers of its charities (projects which more often than not focus on vulnerable youth) cult members who severely abused children. The constituencies that it is targeting have a right to know who they embrace or champion.
Perhaps progress will bring the day when institutions such as the USA's Internal Revenue Service will be informed enough so as to stop granting to the Family Care Foundation and other alter egos of such enterprises as The Family International the aegis under which to make millions through tax exemptions.