To the faithful, the backwoods Kentucky orphanage of John and Anna Vogel was a model Christian home which grew, in less than...

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THE SELF-ANOINTED

To the faithful, the backwoods Kentucky orphanage of John and Anna Vogel was a model Christian home which grew, in less than 20 years, from a single hand-built cabin and Depression debts to a vast, prosperous estate. As daughter Gladis Lenore remembers it (less sharply than the story deserves), what passed for Christian charity was in fact a screen for her not so reverent father's fishy ambitions and perverse, unadmitted needs. A Dutch Calvinish rebel and self-ordained preacher, John set out to prove the power of prayer--the children were admonished to pray for specific monies which, invariably, miraculously arrived. Conditions were hard, the whip came easy, and the righteous atmosphere was unambiguous: one teacher was dismissed instantly for snuggling in a car with a local. But there were oddities (an almost all-female staff) and discrepancies which even the grateful youngsters spotted, although it took years and several ugly incidents before John's philandering and abuse of teenage girls (including the near-seduction of his own daughter) were discovered. Of the miserably botched abortion which betrayed him, John moaned characteristically, ""A principle was at stake. What were one or two lives compared to the truth I was demonstrating?"" Depree has a good eye for detail (metal soap boxes for Christmas, young girls surveying the ladies' underwear), a too-good memory for old conversations, and little talent for putting it all together. One knows John's weakness too long before the revelation, and the aftermath--Lenore's escape and eventual marriage--is syrupy. Still, it's an original, compelling story.

Pub Date: July 26, 1978

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1978