186 of 194 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
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.
72 of 75 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
I was very touched by this book. i cried as i read it, remembering what i too have been thru in this group. i grew up with many of the same abusers and lived in the same country, even living with Celeste and Julie off and on. (Hi girlies!!). i want to state for the record and in their support that despite what others in this group mention, how these things never happened to them...these things did happen, and they happened to me, and i happen to know it happened to them as well. i congratulate them for having the guts to put these things out, to make the public aware of things that can happen. i love you girls, and am so proud of you. ..your friend, Kat
50 of 56 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
This book is a very rational account of three people's personal experiences of a very difficult childhood. Despite the outrageous liberties that were taken with their minds and bodies by adults in the organisation within which they grew up, the authors manage to wite a very balanced, rational account which comes across clearly that they do not have an axe to grind but are simply telling their story in the hope that people will question and think hard about extreme religious organisations.
The book is carefully researched in terms of the history of the children of god, and succintly written without dwelling on the 'trauma' of the experience. The authors draw on only what they know and experienced themselves. The voices of the three girls come through clearly, intertwined with their adult selves.
What surprised me was the level of forgiveness they express towards their parents, who come across as drifting souls who were sucked into a cult that gave them the feeling of structure to their lives, and a sensation of importance, especially in the case of the father. The girls come across as positive and determined to move forward. The book is not a navel gazing searching for the reasons why their lives are bad, it is a clear thinking, well written account of what they actually experienced. I learned a lot. read it, if only to realise the blessings that you experienced in your own childhood
19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
ABSOLUTELY 5 Stars. No question about it.
I picked up this book, in paperback, from my local library a couple days ago, just perusing the shelves for a quick book to read. The cover photo caught my eye, and with the title, gave an inkling of a tragic event these girls must have gone through. I did not pick it up because I knew it was about cult survivors, I picked it up because it made me think about my own sister and the bond of friendship we have together and how we have always helped each other through life's ups and downs and laughs and good and bad times. When I finished reading it a day later, I realized this recounting of abuse and terror beyond belief, hidden from the outside world, most likely will stay with me for the rest of my life. You don't forget atrocities like this, especially to young innocent precious children....children who look to adults for gentle and sure guidance, and well founded morality, and mostly, the LOVE of the parent for his/her CHILD, repeat: CHILD, not 21 year old, CHILD, THAT DOESN'T INCLUDE knowledge and/or actual actions of: intercourse, oral sex, strip teases and suggestive nude dances, nude photo sessions, sex ed at age 3, sex practices at age 3, belief that it's good to "LOVE" Jesus, etc....(AS IF you needed to have anymore to add to that list).
As for the people who reviewed here saying this was a fabricated story, why would you sincerely doubt them? Why else would these women go on in their lives to start an organization to help children in life threatening abusive situations? [...]
They could have been accountants, teachers, sports pros, scientists, etc., but they chose to be abused child advocates...a job ALL of us aspire to, don't we? Yep, sounds like they are full of hot air, uh huh, yup. Sigh.
All you have to do is watch this video [...]
by a young guy who was driven to suicide and murder by these sicko cult members, who was right in the middle of this cult, by his own parents, founders of the cult. Sick stuff...
I am so very happy for these women that they were able to escape this so-called family to start their new lives outside; but all these horrible memories still are fresh and painful and they will have them forever. Can you imagine? Can you EVEN.....imagine?
To Celeste, Juliana, and Kristina:
know that your words will live beyond this book; many people will continue to come out for years, through your words if they are able to get this book, and there will be a collective voice larger than you ever imagined, if you are not already seeing it now. With this book, you have sent a beacon of hope out to many. Your online site has forums that are helpful to survivors and informational to those who are wanting to help. There are dangerous, damaging, very enticing, and on-the-surface charismatic cults existing everywhere in this world at this very second...and knowing this very fact, if we don't protect our children from their twisted visions, we can and should be held accountable for the damage done to our very own families.
Bravo to you all for speaking out!!! You are believed.
18 of 22 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
After reading this book I realise just how lucky I have been and how happy my own childhood was. I have no connection to this cult and simply came across this book on a recommended reading section of a friend's website. It is a fantastic insight into a world find hard to believe exists in this days and age. I was astounded by some of this books content. The courage the three authors have shown in exposing what they had to endure as children has to be acknowledged and I admire all three for this.
This book is well written and makes for a very emotional read. I'm only a few years older then the three sisters who wrote this book and have two young children of my own. As a parent I found it very hard to understand the virtual abandonment of children that happened a lot in this cult along with the level of abuse these young children had to endure.
I would highly recommend this for anyone who enjoys well written true life story's but be prepared for a highly emotional read.