A heartfelt and richly detailed memoir.



A religious and political activist tells the story of how she grew up in and then left the extremist Westboro Baptist Church.

As the granddaughter of the church founder, Phelps-Roper grew up in a large, tightly knit family that believed “God ruled via the parents and elders.” What that meant in practice was that she had to assimilate a church culture emphasizing “the celebration and mockery” of the tragedies that befell nonbelievers. Throughout childhood and adolescence, Phelps-Roper lived a double life. At school, she was a dedicated student who kept matters of faith out of her discussions with teachers and classmates. Outside of school, she and the members of her church community were vocal protesters against homosexuality, adultery, and the morally bankrupt nature of society. When Westboro's “picketing ministry” brought it into the media spotlight, Phelps-Roper became one of the most visible spokespeople for the church. As a young adult, she traveled all over the country to show “that the Bible really did say what [the Westboro Church] claimed it did.” By 2011, she became her church’s voice on Twitter, where she routinely “bait[ed] celebrities with anti-gay messages” and celebrated such tragedies as the Fukushima nuclear disaster. She also started communicating with an anonymous lawyer who engaged her in intelligent and respectful theological debate. As she began questioning her religious beliefs, she realized that she was also falling in love with the lawyer, who eventually became her husband. Phelps-Roper soon found she could no longer support the cruelty and “all or nothing” nature of her faith. After Westboro leadership became even more conservative and hypocritical, she and a free-spirited younger sister made the excruciating decision to leave both the church and their family. Eloquent and entirely candid, the book offers an intimate look at a controversial church while telling the moving story of how one woman found the courage to stand against the people and beliefs that she held dearest.

A heartfelt and richly detailed memoir.

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-374-27583-9

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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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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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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