A captivating story of one woman’s journey to spiritual freedom.



In a compelling debut memoir, Larkin tells of her experiences in the Children of God cult.

Growing up in the Bible Belt in the 1970s, Larkin was drawn to Christianity at a young age. However, her mother always actively discouraged her from joining a church and leading a religious life. When her mother finally took her to a church, Larkin found herself dissatisfied: “The people were nice to me, but they didn’t talk much about the Lord. They seemed more interested in talking about what was right and wrong—not a whole lot different than my mother.” Lost and despondent, the 13-year-old Larkin happened upon a poster in the nearby college town of Knoxville, Tenn., that read, “Free Food, Free Music, Free Love.” Larkin took the ad as a sign from God and went to the listed address, where she was greeted by the seemingly warm and generous members of the Children of God, also known as the Family. Larkin joined them and eagerly relinquished all her possessions to the group. The Family’s regular proselytizing, or “witnessing,” consisted at first of distributing leaflets and singing on street corners, but then began incorporating “Flirty Fishing,” in which female members persuaded outsiders to join the Family by flirting and eventually sleeping with them. Larkin’s spiritual journey took another unexpected turn when she gave birth to a daughter, Berta, with cerebral palsy. Her challenges as she tried to raise Berta in the Family—where no one member is allowed to receive special treatment—led Larkin to see her life in the Children of God as unsustainable and detrimental to her and her daughter’s well-being. In this fine memoir, the author’s voice is emotional and fervent, but her prose style is relatively unadorned. She conveys her story in simple but powerful language that consistently makes her account an absorbing read.

A captivating story of one woman’s journey to spiritual freedom.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2012

ISBN: 978-1478326069

Page Count: 324

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2013

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.


Sedaris remains stubbornly irreverent even in the face of pandemic lockdowns and social upheaval.

In his previous collection of original essays, Calypso (2018), the author was unusually downbeat, fixated on aging and the deaths of his mother and sister. There’s bad news in this book, too—most notably, the death of his problematic and seemingly indestructible father at 96—but Sedaris generally carries himself more lightly. On a trip to a gun range, he’s puzzled by boxer shorts with a holster feature, which he wishes were called “gunderpants.” He plays along with nursing-home staffers who, hearing a funnyman named David is on the premises, think he’s Dave Chappelle. He’s bemused by his sister Amy’s landing a new apartment to escape her territorial pet rabbit. On tour, he collects sheaves of off-color jokes and tales of sexual self-gratification gone wrong. His relationship with his partner, Hugh, remains contentious, but it’s mellowing. (“After thirty years, sleeping is the new having sex.”) Even more serious stuff rolls off him. Of Covid-19, he writes that “more than eight hundred thousand people have died to date, and I didn’t get to choose a one of them.” The author’s support of Black Lives Matter is tempered by his interest in the earnest conscientiousness of organizers ensuring everyone is fed and hydrated. (He refers to one such person as a “snacktivist.”) Such impolitic material, though, puts serious essays in sharper, more powerful relief. He recalls fending off the flirtations of a 12-year-old boy in France, frustrated by the language barrier and other factors that kept him from supporting a young gay man. His father’s death unlocks a crushing piece about dad’s inappropriate, sexualizing treatment of his children. For years—chronicled in many books—Sedaris labored to elude his father’s criticism. Even in death, though, it proves hard to escape or laugh off.

A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.

Pub Date: May 31, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-39245-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 11, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022

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