A child abuse survivor recounts a youth mired in rigid fundamentalist rule and a resultant dysfunctional adulthood.
“I was raised by hippies turned Jesus freaks,” writes author and motivational speaker Finnola of her parents, whose fanatical behavior dramatically changed direction when she was a young girl. Her harrowing debut memoir begins with early recollections of parents who cooked everything from scratch and rummaged through thrift store bins to clothe her and her sister. The family abandoned the Midwest for San Francisco once her parents became staunch followers of what the author describes as an “ecumenical, fundamentalist, charismatic, evangelical Christian cult.” At age 8, she attended her first prayer meeting, and from there, became drowned in religious dogma, apocalyptic beliefs, regular beatings, and constant distress that her sins “made me vile” in God’s sight. She was taught that secular culture was sinful, and was home-schooled in eighth grade. After college, she met and married a closeted gay man, and during their decades-long relationship, she endured cruel degradation, verbal abuse, and misery so extreme she rebelled with excessive smoking, overeating, extramarital affairs, and a barrage of antidepressant medication. Vividly written and often difficult to read, the memoir is a raw, intensive chronicle of a bleak life yet also forms a true testament to the durability of the human spirit and how perseverance and self-love can work wonders and renew a broken soul. Finnola’s 30s and early 40s admittedly became her darkest days as she embraced her “victim identity” and contemplated suicide, even though a spiritual teacher she’d met and a support group helped buoy her. Her betrayal and anger at her duplicitous marriage are palpable and repeatedly addressed. Her ultimate recovery in mind, body, and spirit took many years as the author eventually vanquished her “inner terrorist” and forgave herself enough to begin the arduous journey to rebuild her self-esteem, embrace motherhood to two daughters, and love again. The author is proud to write that she is now “healthy, happy, and whole,” and the book’s subtitle describing Finnola is fitting and suits this epiphanic, unsettling, and still-evolving life story well.
A moving, greatly ruminative, cathartic autobiography.