A powerful story of one man’s experience within a cult.

In this slim, shocking work of nonfiction, debut co-authors Hardeman and Oglesby expose the horrors perpetrated upon a congregation in Atlanta.

Although called “the House of Prayer church,” a supposedly Christian ministry, the authors contend it was a perverse cult run by a “dictator,” Rev. Arthur Allen Jr. The octogenarian announced to his flock that he was a “superman in the bedroom.” He invited his male and female followers to display their genitals before the congregation, while he derided them with foul-mouthed epithets. He encouraged men to beat their wives and kids and women to submit to their husbands, but only after they submitted to him. These examples of ruthless behavior merely scratch the surface of the pastor’s lurid exploits. Through personal, painful experiences within the House of Prayer, the narrator lays out how he was demeaned and controlled, until a new member of the church abused a number of children, including the narrator’s daughter. When Allen defended the child molester, the narrator, despite recriminations and family betrayal, excommunicated himself. Although penned by two authors, the story is told in first-person singular, which creates a bit of confusion. Did both men belong to the House of Prayer and combine their experiences? Or did one simply assist the other in the writing? Despite this, the narrator’s voice is forceful and instructive. The recollections of degradation, abuse and kidnapping—featured on a number of TV news programs—are jaw dropping. A few typos and some mangled sentences pop up occasionally. For example, “It is trendy for the pastor to kidnap children that has been awarded by the court to the parent that has left his church,” the authors note in a list of bullet-pointed items. Overall, their noble efforts might help those who find themselves under the sway of a cult.

A powerful story of one man’s experience within a cult.

Pub Date: Oct. 21, 2012

ISBN: 978-1478340560

Page Count: 44

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Dec. 20, 2012



Dillard’s story reflects maturity and understanding from someone who was forced to mature and understand too much too soon.

A measured memoir from a daughter of the famous family.

Growing up in the Institute of Basic Life Principles community, which she came to realize was “a cult, thriving on a culture of fear and manipulation,” Duggar and her 18 siblings were raised never to question parental authority. As the author recalls, she felt no need to, describing the loving home of her girlhood. When a documentary crew approached her father, Jim Bob, and proposed first a series of TV specials that would be called 17 Kids and Counting (later 18 and 19 Kids and Counting), he agreed, telling his family that this was a chance to share their conservative Christian faith. It was also a chance to become wealthy, but Jill, who was dedicated to following the rules, didn’t question where the money went. A key to her falling out with her family was orchestrated by Jim Bob, who introduced her to missionary Derick Dillard. Their wedding was one of the most-watched episodes of the series. Even though she was an adult, Jill’s parents and the show continued to expect more of the young couple. When they attempted to say no to filming some aspects of their lives, Jill discovered that a sheet of paper her father asked her to sign the day before her wedding was part of a contract in which she had unwittingly agreed to full cooperation. Writing about her sex offender brother, Josh, and the legal action she and Derick had to take to get their questions answered, Jill describes how she was finally able—through therapy, prayer, and the establishment of boundaries—to reconcile love for her parents with Jim Bob’s deception and reframe her faith outside the IBLP.

Dillard’s story reflects maturity and understanding from someone who was forced to mature and understand too much too soon.

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2023

ISBN: 9781668024447

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 27, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2023


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 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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