An ex-member of Scientology’s inner elite bolts—understandably, to trust this undistinguished but still valuable memoir.
If Charles Dickens had been a sci-fi author, he might have dreamed up something like Scientology and its weird workhouses. Hill, born to parents who had been longtime members of sci-fi author L. Ron Hubbard’s organization, and whose uncle is now its de facto leader, recounts a life resolutely within the realm of the thetans. “Everyone I knew was in the Church, and as a third-generation Scientologist, my life was Scientology,” she writes. That life included absolute obedience to dictates that seem crafted to strip away any autonomy from the individual, if any individuality at all. At the age of 4, Hill was already an adept, while her parents were members of “Sea Org,” the inner sanctum; one requirement was that families be separated and that “children over the age of six would be raised communally at locations close to Sea Org bases.” Family visits dwindled, and Hill scarcely saw her mother unless on “special Scientology/Sea Org occasions…[when] I would get to see her for a whole day.” Hill’s break from the sect in 2005, after years of control, coincided with the publication of an unauthorized bio of Tom Cruise, perhaps its best-known member, which she found to be accurate. Hill’s emotional turmoil is wrenchingly authentic, but even the help of well-credentialed writer Pulitzer (co-author: Banished: Surviving My Years in the Westboro Baptist Church, 2013, etc.) does not save the book from a limping prose style full of expressions such as “incredibly special” and “I got pretty emotional that Dallas’s family was there to make it special.”
Despite the uneven prose, readers with an interest in the psychology of religion, among other subjects, will find this rare insider’s account to be of value—less so than Lawrence Wright’s Going Clear (2013), but of value all the same.