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Girl at the End of the World: My Escape from Fundamentalism in Search of Faith with a Future [Kindle Edition]

Elizabeth Esther
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (161 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $14.99
Kindle Price: $10.68
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Sold by: Random House LLC

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Book Description

I was raised in a homegrown, fundamentalist Christian group—which is just a shorthand way of saying I’m classically trained in apocalyptic stockpiling, street preaching, and the King James Version of the Bible. I know hundreds of obscure nineteenth-century hymns by heart and have such razor sharp “modesty vision” that I can spot a miniskirt a mile away.

Verily, verily I say unto thee, none of these highly specialized skills ever got me a job, but at least I’m all set for the end of the world. Selah.

A story of mind control, the Apocalypse, and modest attire.

Elizabeth Esther grew up in love with Jesus but in fear of daily spankings (to “break her will”). Trained in her family-run church to confess sins real and imagined, she knew her parents loved her and God probably hated her. Not until she was grown and married did she find the courage to attempt the unthinkable. To leave.

In her memoir, readers will recognize questions every believer faces: When is spiritual zeal a gift, and when is it a trap? What happens when a pastor holds unchecked sway over his followers? And how can we leave behind the harm inflicted in the name of God without losing God in the process?

By turns hilarious and heartbreaking, Girl at the End of the World is a story of the lingering effects of spiritual abuse and the growing hope that God can still be good when His people fail.

Includes reading group discussion guide and interview with the author

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Editorial Reviews


Praise for Girl at the End of the World

“What a story! Girl at the End of the World is witty, insightful, courageous, and compelling, the sort of book you plan to read in a week but finish in a day. Elizabeth Esther is a master storyteller who describes her journey out of fundamentalism with a powerful mix of tenderness and guts. With this debut, Esther sets herself apart as a remarkable writer and remarkable woman. This book is a gift, and I cannot commend it enough.”
—Rachel Held Evans, blogger and author of A Year of Biblical Womanhood

“Sometimes hilarious, sometimes tragic, Girl at the End of the World provides an unflinching look at life growing up inside a fundamentalist cult. Elizabeth Esther’s honest and vulnerable account of her childhood, and the effects of her parents’ religious zeal, is both fascinating and poignant. I couldn’t put this book down. It will provide hope to anyone recovering from an upbringing where religiosity was emphasized over a relationship with God.”
—Kristen Howerton, author of

Girl at the End of the World is an unforgettable memoir. I white-knuckled its pages as I traveled through Elizabeth Esther’s heartbreaking childhood. I cheered for her when she finally found freedom and grace. It’s eye-opening, powerfully written, and offers a vital perspective in the conversation about fundamentalism and religious abuse.”
—Jason Boyett, author of O Me of Little Faith

“Elizabeth Esther’s story is a powerful account, and she’s told it beautifully. As I read, I thought of my own memories of growing up in an evangelical church and wondered how they’ve made me the person I am today. This book is a reminder that God is good and that He can redeem any story for His beloved children—or as Elizabeth says, that ‘God is big enough to meet us anywhere.’ I’m so glad she has bravely told her tale.”
—Tsh Oxenreider, author of Notes from a Blue Bike: The Art of Living Intentionally in a Chaotic World

“There is life on every page. Girl at the End of the World is evidence that sometimes our scars make the most beautiful art.”
—Josh James Riebock, author of Heroes and Monsters

“A delightful book: funny and wise and rich with insight about God and faith. Even while Elizabeth tells the darker threads of her story, her innocence, wit, and spiritual exuberance shine brightly.”
—Matthew Paul Turner, author of Churched and Our Great Big American God

“A memoir about childhood should not read like a seat-of-the-pants thriller, but Elizabeth Esther’s does. And that’s scary. I found myself wishing I could reach through the pages and hug that cowering, desperate girl, and tell her that God truly loves her. I’m so glad she knows His devotion now, and so grateful that she is sharing her story so that we, as God’s ambassadors, can make sure abuse in the name of ‘child training’ never happens again.”
—Sheila Wray Gregoire, author and blogger at

“Elizabeth shares with candor, wit, and near flawless writing about the religion she was so deeply hurt by. Her story is heartbreaking, yet redemptive, and we would all do well to pay attention to how religion without the love, grace, and truth of Jesus Christ is an empty and destructive force.”
—Sarah Mae, author of Desperate: Hope for the Mom Who Needs to Breathe

About the Author

Elizabeth Esther is a popular blogger and advocate who has appeared on shows such as Fox News and Anderson Cooper Live. Elizabeth and her husband, Matthew, live with their five children in Santa Ana, California.

Product Details

  • File Size: 3825 KB
  • Print Length: 226 pages
  • Publisher: Convergent Books (March 18, 2014)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00FDS55VS
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #64,857 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Raw and Redemptive March 18, 2014
As readers, we first meet Elizabeth at age nine, preaching hellfire and brimstone on a street corner for her parents--who she would do anything to please, much like every girl that age. But by the end of the first chapter we're seeing beyond the brainwashing. We're seeing a little girl who doesn't want to earn frozen lemonade by shouting Romans 3:23 at total strangers from atop a milk crate. She just wants "a television, a Happy Meal and a Christmas Barbie."

Her story shifts as she grows older and stronger, and as readers we get glimpses of the Elizabeth the popular blogger some of us now know online, but we also get glimpses of what that kind of childhood does to a person. As she wrestles with panic attacks, self-harm and despair on her long, long road to a fuller, happier life--first as a teenager and then as a wife and mother--we see the reality of PTSD in all its awful glory as well as the incredible courage and the years of slow and steady determination it takes to leave that kind of toxic, authoritarian faction of faith.

Her story is raw and painful, but her story is also redemptive and beautiful. (And encouraging in the best ways.) And you don't need to have been raised in a cult to relate to Elizabeth's trials and triumphs. Her situation might have been unique, but her damaged emotions, her often unhealthy coping mechanisms, and her determination to find physical and spiritual healing are more universal. Those who love good memoirs, have been through hard things too, are fascinated by cults or just love Elizabeth's blog ... this book is for all of you!
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Elizabeth Esther tells the story of my soul March 18, 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I preordered ElizabethEsther's book *Girl at the End of the World*. I got it last night (when Kindle thought it was already midnight in wherever Amazon Standard Time is) and finished it by 1am.

If you grew up in fundamentalist Christianity, in the inner circle of church leadership, in any kind of cult, or even in garden-variety abuse and addiction, you paid a price with your very soul. And you will find solace in knowing that you weren't alone. I laughed and I cried and I tried to keep the noise down so my husband could sleep. But I finished with a full heart, for Elizabeth Esther wrote the drama of my childhood. Sure the setting was different and the costumes were changed, but still the heart of the story was my story too. It is the story of far too many children.

I will be thinking of this book for days, I know, as it pulls up long-hidden memories and deeply buried feelings from my own childhood. It is a healing space. Thank you, Elizabeth Esther, for creating a safe space for me to look more deeply at the wounds in my soul.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Writing Her Way Out March 20, 2014
Format:Kindle Edition
Elizabeth’s writing is just wonderful. Her narrative style translates seamlessly from blog to book, maintaining her signature conversational fluidity punctuated by trenchant humor throughout. In the opening chapters, I was nodding and laughing, remembering the evangelical 80′s. Then, I was grieving, and still laughing – but grieving. By Part Two I was pushed deep into personal reflection and remembrance. In Part Three I was surprised by the sheer grown-up honesty in the irresolvable resolution of it all – and, by hope.

Growing up in a world where the end is near – whether the imminent Rapture of The Assembly or the last-days Great Harvest of my Pentecostal-Prophetic upbringing – is a strange thing. You never really think about what you will do with your life. You are waiting – always waiting. And reading your King James Bible, and sitting in meetings, and staying at home to prove your “distinction” from the world. In Elizabeth’s words, “Verily, verily I say unto thee, none of these highly specialized skills ever got me a job, but at least I’m all set for the End of the World. Selah” (p. 6).

The abuse that then ensues is shrouded in the ultimacy of The End. Nothing else matters except obedience, compliance, loyalty – for then, your future is secure after the Judgment (of everyone else) goes down. Elizabeth’s descriptions of the daily spankings practiced by the cult – really, beatings – are arresting. Perhaps the emotional and spiritual abuse in which they are administered is even moreso:

"The next day when I look in the mirror, my bottom is bruised. It hurts to sit down. It hurts to walk. God desires truth in the inward parts, I remind myself. My parents spank me because the book of Proverbs says it will save my soul from hell.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unexpectedly relatable. April 17, 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I finished this book a month ago in a single evening. It's taken me this long to figure out some words to say. It is everything you look for in a memoir. Funny. Sad. Happy. More Funny. True. And, surprisingly for a book about a cult, relatable. I think the relatableness is what made me wait so long to write a review. It made me reconsider my history and worldview.

I have been a reader of Elizabeth Esther's blog for a couple of years now. I knew her writing was good. But she saved the best for this book. It is carefully worded and well-thought-out. The work that went into it is obvious in that way that the writing is so easy to read you don't even realize it's happening. So if you want a well-written memoir, look no further than this.

But even without the excellent writing, I would recommend this on the merits of the story alone. The story is what affected me so deeply that I had to think about it for a month before scribbling out a review. This book was so relatable. And that scared me. It shouldn't be. I didn't grow up in Southern California. I was not raised in a cult. My family is about as liberal as they come. I was allowed to do and read pretty much whatever I wanted. I am a grad student and I'm nowhere near considering marriage or children. What do Elizabeth Esther and I even have in common besides our gender?

Such is the magic, or perhaps better, mastery, of her words. She is able to take her specific experiences - her life - and share it in such a way that even I get a glimpse of her true self. I feel like I can understand what her church was like. I can even see reflections and echoes of that church in my own experience. And that terrifies me.

The churches of my youth were not cults. No way!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars she and her family have not lost their faith in God but have moved...
Wow! what an incredible testimony and unlike others that have come out of fundamentalism, she and her family have not lost their faith in God but have moved onto something better.
Published 1 hour ago by rob
5.0 out of 5 stars A personal story of faith
A story how about one woman's struggle to find faith despite being raised in a family that headed their own church.
Published 8 days ago by GLH
5.0 out of 5 stars I needed this
This book is about one woman's experience. It is very different from mine in more ways than not, yet I feel her feelings as intimately similar to mine - and many of the same... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Sarah M.
4.0 out of 5 stars I enjoyed the book
Reminded me a lot of my background. Healing came very slowly for me. I enjoyed the book.
Published 1 month ago by Victoria bordeaux
4.0 out of 5 stars Good read
This book was good and it was an easy read. Elizabeth's story is sad, but it is one that needs to be told. It is relatable in chilling ways. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Andrea Perez
5.0 out of 5 stars Life changer
Elizabeth Esther is incredible! Her story reminds me of myself and really hit home. I appreciate her humor and honesty! Read more
Published 5 months ago by Sarah jayne
5.0 out of 5 stars The truth and nothing but the truth. Thank you, Elizabeth Esther!
Found this book by chance at the library on the new bookshelf. Almost put it back because I figured, well, don't know what I figured. Maybe a preachy, shallow book? I don't know. Read more
Published 5 months ago by R. Morrow
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly recommended!
Fantastic read! Ms. Esther conveyed her experiences with stark honesty and humor. I can relate to much of what she conveyed (both her experiences and her reactions to those... Read more
Published 5 months ago by kstay
5.0 out of 5 stars ... from the beginning and my heart ached for those like myself who...
This book captured me from the beginning and my heart ached for those like myself who have been abused in different ways by mans abuse of God's ways. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Cheryl Johannsen
5.0 out of 5 stars Good for anyone who has been spiritually abused
Excellent book. Ironic, that she found solace where many of us received our abuse. Jesus' love seeks us no matter how circuitous our path. Read more
Published 6 months ago by W. D. W. DC
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More About the Author

Elizabeth Esther is the author of "Girl at The End of the World: my escape from fundamentalism in search of faith with a future." She is a popular, award-winning blogger and advocate for children's rights. She appeared on Anderson Cooper LIVE to confront the abusive child spanking practices of Mike & Debi Pearl. Her writing has appeared in Mothering Magazine, OC Family and The Orange County Register. She is a contributing writer for Deeper Story. Elizabeth is a mother of five and lives with her husband and family in Tustin, California.


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