Elizabeth Esther is incredibly brave to be vulnerable enough to share her story in her book, Girl at the End of the World. I cannot sugarcoat it: this book is hard to read. It is difficult to journey with someone as she shares intimate details from her life. Even though it is difficult, this book is definitely worth reading.
Elizabeth is owning her story and what happened to her. You know who benefits when we keep our stories to ourselves? No one. But when we open up, like Elizabeth did, we open the door for healing and growth. That is why this book is worth reading. While her story is incredibly raw and painful, at its heart, it is a redemptive story. Your heart will break as you read her words; you will want to mourn for her and her childhood.
She documents life in The Assembly, the cult in which she was raised. “Cults,” writes Esther, “aren’t so much about beliefs as they are about methods and behavior. According to cult researchers, it is the emotional seizing of people’s trust, thoughts, and choices that identifies a cult. The Assembly wins on all counts.”
As you are reading, it is hard to swallow how this could have been a reality. Elizabeth Esther explains some of the background behind The Assembly’s abuse. Her experiences are connected to the teachings of this cult, spanning from the Rapture to spanking children. The book opens with nine-year-old Elizabeth, preaching on a street corner. She includes how that impacted the way she understood authority as well as relationships.
I was not raised in a cult, nor was I raised in an entirely fundamentalist church. While I cannot relate to her experiences directly, she writes in a way that draws the reader into her world. I imagine this book would be especially helpful for those who were raised in abusive “religious” contexts, but I found it to be a beneficial read for someone outside that world of experiences as well. This is ultimately a hopeful read. In the final section of the book, she processes through the difficulty of returning to church. She includes the confrontation between her and her grandparents. She writes of her experience dealing with anxiety. “I’ve survived a dysfunctional, apocalyptic childhood. But I am still living in a murderous whirlwind of anxiety,” she explains.
The book concludes with an Author’s Note and discussion questions, which is helpful to wrap up and process a book like this. In her author’s note, she explains her goal in writing this book: “My goal in writing this book is to shed light on the subtle forms of spiritual and religious abuse. I can only hope that my story brings a measure of solace, hope, and solidarity to anyone who has experienced a similarly painful church experience. May it sing freedom to captives and healing for those who have been bruised in the name of God.”
Purchase the book on Amazon.
You can read a sample chapter from Girl at the End of the World by clicking here.
Check out Elizabeth Esther’s blog here.
I received this book for free from Blogging for Books for this review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.