In this debut memoir, a man recounts his struggles in a Christian cult and as a Muslim surrounded by radicals.
Despised by the other kids at his school for no apparent reason, Prentiss was always troubled. While living with his father south of Chicago, he became drawn to the occult, a startling development for himself and those around him. The author soon moved to St. Louis to live with his mother and the leader of a Christian “spiritual boot camp.” This intensive religious sect, called the Anointed of God Ministries, proved to be little more than torturous slave labor and endless beatings with loose biblical justifications. After finally escaping that harsh life, Prentiss married and had a child; his wife’s career with the Air Force took them to Britain, where he began to re-evaluate his life and his thoughts on religion. Following a divorce and a return to the U.S., he finally settled on Islam as the religion closest to his convictions. He converted, married a Muslim woman, and joined several organizations as an activist for community outreach on behalf of his new religion. But the tragic events of 9/11 would change some of his closest friends, leaving the author to face extremism yet again within his new brethren and make the devastating, dangerous choice to become an informant for the FBI. Prentiss does an excellent job of rendering the violence, fear, and trauma of his early years with brutal descriptions of beatings and the twisted logic he began to actually believe. But it’s in the book’s second half, which deals with the moral and emotional dilemma of turning in his jihadist friends to the police, that the memoir becomes the most dynamic and captivating. The author guides readers through his inner turmoil as well as the incredibly tense situations he was caught in as an informant. From one scene to the next, the absorbing story shifts from suspense to philosophically thorny questions about religion and community.
An engrossing autobiography that delivers believable, straightforward accounts of religious extremism and its large, complex consequences.