Scorah, an editor at Scholastic, debuts with the story of her life in, and after, the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Having been born into the church, the author went on to become one of its missionaries to China; the most fascinating portions of her memoir describe her years in Shanghai. Scorah paints the picture of an innocent and unquestioning young girl who grew up to be a more independent, yet socially impaired, adult. Following a protracted teenage tryst that caused her to be ostracized from the church for a time, she married a man she did not love and found escape and meaning as a missionary, reaching out to whomever she could find to teach Jehovah’s Witness doctrine. The author is adept in her portrayals of the conflict in cultures she discovered in China and in relaying the challenges she faced as a Westerner trying to convert people in a foreign country. A lengthy online affair with a man who became driven to prove her religion wrong led Scorah to have doubts and eventually begin the process of leaving her husband and then the church—and thus most everything she had ever known. The author eventually found new work and friendships in Shanghai, and she later relocated to New York. Her work is well-written, and only occasionally does the author delve too heavy-handedly into salacious tell-all territory. Mostly, she provides an eye-opening account of how Jehovah’s Witnesses live and operate. Sadly, the tale lacks a happy ending, as the author would lose her 4-month-old son. “When I arrived at lunch [at daycare] to nurse him, he was dead,” she writes in the heartbreaking final section. “No one could tell me why, or what had happened.” The narrative ends on a note of near-despair, with only a glimmer of hope. “I have called a truce with the unknown,” writes Scorah, “and I am learning to live with the disquiet.”
An intriguing read about a mysterious religion.