A debut book focuses on a young girl growing up in the infamous Children of God cult and the bizarre locales that she was raised in.
Edwards’ memoir chronicles her upbringing in the religious movement the Children of God, also called the Family, a doomsday cult formed in the late 1960s by David Berg. Berg prophesied a looming apocalypse, claiming it would occur in 1993. Often in hiding, he sent letters to instruct his followers, with the prophet encouraging an atmosphere of wanton sexuality and constant ministry, interspersed with tales of his alleged erotic conquests to offset his own impotency. From a young age, Edwards had her doubts about the “evil” that the walls around the family’s residences supposedly protected her from as well as a great fear that her life would end in martyrdom. Much of the early years of her and her twin sister, Tamar, was spent in Thailand, staying in overcrowded conditions while their parents did “outreach” work, which often meant begging. The book delivers another account of the Children of God, whose history of incest and sexualization of minor-age children has become notorious since the 2005 murder-suicide committed by former cult member Ricky “Davidito” Rodriguez in the U.S. Rodriguez killed an associate of his mother’s and then took his own life. Edwards’ experiences portray a different yet no less oppressive Family half a world away. The author will not be a stranger to some readers, having been extensively interviewed, and she brings the same presence and charisma to her memoir. The narrative is vivid, from its depictions of the blood of her mother’s first miscarriage to the constant dust and grime of life near the Mekong River. The moving story carries a muted, often dark sense of humor, with a wry sense of timing. Edwards’ shock at forgetting to minister to a brawny Russian who hoisted her above a deep freezer in Thailand (“Wanna feel cold?”) is one particularly endearing and startling case. But the author’s years of awakening after her family’s exit from the Children of God, while not rushed, feel abbreviated. The accounts of her realization that she grew up in a cult, ranging from a story in Seventeen to her teenage rebellion and even her attempted suicide, are presented with a self-awareness and charm that will make readers want more.
An impressive religious memoir—candid and inspiring without being sensationalistic or self-pitying.