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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Several things impressed me about this book, but two things stood out. The courage Richard Kelly demonstrates as he takes us inside the smothering world he lived in as he grew from being an impressionable young child to becoming an independent young adult is remarkable. He gives us a no-holds-barred look at a family life choice that few of us know about or understand. With mesmorizing words that are born from his need to heal after a family trajedy, he weaves a true story that is filled with wonderful descriptions of the people and the times he lived through...and escaped from. This book is a great read, and a great education!
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on May 7, 2008
This well-written story of one man's experience growing up as a Jehovah's Witness reads like a novel while informing like a scholarly paper. The work by this former Bethelite has unusually good descriptions of those involved, which bring the story to life and help the reader become involved in the plot.

The most valuable feature of the book is it effectively conveys what it is like to grow up and be an active Jehovah's Witness. Both the good and bad are related with candor--and much of each exists, as Kelly documents. One point made clear is that many good people exist in the Watchtower movement.

An especially revealing section describes how Kelly's father, once an active opposer, became a Witness, effectively showing why and how someone would become involved in an organization that many people consider a deviant cult. It also shows the problem of using untrained persons, such as Kelly's father, as mental health diagnosticians and therapists, a role forced on them as elders. A point that came through in almost every chapter was the Watchtower teaching that the end of this world and the promise of the new was upon us, and we should live like Armageddon will be here tomorrow or sooner. This is the history of every Witness who lived in the 1950s and 1960s.

This story is told with insightful understanding, even compassion, not bitterness as is common among people who were reared as Witnesses. As an ex-Witness, I could relate to Mama's Club as Kelly's experience parallels mine. I too endured the conflicts and tragic effects at school and home over the restrictive treatment of holidays, conflicts that are unnecessary and reminiscent of the prohibitions in the Torah, such as prohibiting cutting fingernails on the Sabbath unless the torn nail is bleeding.

A recent Pew survey of 35,000 Americans found Jehovah's Witnesses "had the lowest retention rate of any religious tradition" in America, lower then Catholics, Jews, and all other religions. Kelly's excellent book helps readers understand why this religion loses so many members, and, on the other hand, what attracts people to it and why they stay in spite of the problems in the organization.

Jerry Bergman, Ph.D., MSBS, L.P.C.C.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on April 21, 2008
I picked up this book one night and thought I would "just read a few pages." Well, I could not put it down. Richard Kelly has a gift with words. He has written a fascinating, very sincere, and moving story about his childhood and growing up with a religion that did not fit his idea of what spirituality was about. If you enjoyed "Letter to a Christian Nation" or "The God Delusion" and other books that make us question our beliefs, you will enjoy this book. This easy-to-read, thoughtful, and at times, laugh-out-loud funny, real-life story will make you think about whether your beliefs are your own, or what others want you to believe. I heartily recommend this honest and revealing book.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
"Who can it be knocking at my door?
Go 'way, don't come 'round here no more.
Can't you see that it's late at night?
I'm very tired, and I'm not feeling right.
All I wish is to be alone;
Stay away, don't you invade my home."

(Lyrics by Men At Work)

Easily recognizable by their tracts and immaculate appearance, Jehovah's Witnesses have been going door to door for decades, spreading religious dogma, doing their bit to share their interpretation of the bible, and looking for converts.

For obvious reasons this isn't the easiest task in the world, and when you consider that this is all done on a voluntary basis, ( in the sense that you don't get paid) it becomes even more remarkable that people would be motivated to rise to the challenge.

To quote British comedian Tommy Cooper:

"The recruitment consultant asked me 'What do you think of voluntary work?' I said 'I wouldn't do it if you paid me.'"

This book offers insights into "The Club" through the eyes of a young man whose mother fully embraced JW doctrine, and found the spiritual guidance that she was desperately seeking at that time of her life. Naturally, his mother expected her family to join her on the path to eternal life in Heaven, and despite early resistance, she succeeded in converting her husband, and together they set the rules for their children.

Young Dickie was an unwilling participant, quickly concluding that something seemed wrong with some of the rules and beliefs, which would sometimes change drastically depending on the Club president at the time. Mainly to please his mother, he remained with the Club for sixteen years, abiding by the strange rules for the most part, participating in the long and frequent Club meetings at the Kingdom Hall and performing his door-to-door duties. At the same time he found himself leading a double life, as he never fully embraced the teachings of the Club and wished to lead a more normal life.

Despite having his parents' religious beliefs forced upon him, he managed to make the best of it, becoming an accomplished public speaker and perfecting his interpersonal skills. He also formed his own opinions on "the truth" as preached by Club members, and observed how some rules seemed not to apply to the upper levels of the hierarchy.

From this book, the reader will have a better understanding of this controversial religious group, the administrative structure and its influence over its members. Well written, easy to read, humorous in places and shocking in others, anyone considering joining JW or any similar group should read this before making a final decision.

Amanda Richards, May 5, 2008
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on September 29, 2011
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I regret any time that I may have been unkind to "them" when they rang our bell. Richard Kelly's book gave me the gift of living within another faith. The book is insightful and meaningful in a world that is so intolerant and fearful of those who fall outside of the norm. Well written and a fast but great read. You will be glad that you purchased this book and will remember it long after you close the cover on the last page.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
The people that I know that are most passionate in their expression of their opposition to religion generally have one thing in common, they grew up in a strict religious household. More than one of them has referred to themselves as a "recovering Catholic." This book is a description of the childhood of a man that grew up in a home where the behaviors were severely restrained according to the dogma of the Jehovah's Witnesses faith.
Unlike others where their parents were members when they were born, Kelly's parents took up the faith when he was a young boy. This meant that he had a memory of how things were before the conversion, which often makes it even more difficult. Furthermore, late converts tend to have more zeal in their faith and that was the case with Kelly's parents. Despite the pressure from his parents to conform to the church doctrine, Kelly never became a "true believer", which kept him in continuous conflict with the world around him.
Fundamental positions of the Jehovah's Witnesses faith such as a refusal to recite the Pledge of Allegiance further helped keep Kelly from forming close relationships with people outside the Jehovah's Witnesses, making it more difficult for him to adjust to the world as he experienced it. It was only when Kelly reached the age of 20 that he was able to break with "Mama's Club" and leave the church that he had grown to dislike.
This story is a sad tale of detrimental religious pressure as well as a look into the internal structure of the Jehovah's Witnesses church. Like all organizations staffed by humans, it contains people that do not practice a compassionate and considerate religion, but work to further their own position and ambitions by exercising their power over others.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Someone knocks at your door. You open it and there stands a mother and her little boy. She offers you a pamphlet. You know immediately who they are. They're Jehovah's Witnesses and you have been warned against listening to their message, and warned against accepting any literature from them. As a consequence, you know very little about them.

As the mother and son depart, the boy chances a shy smile your way, and you wonder, what is life really like for him? And what is this religion all about?

Richard Kelly was this little boy. When he was four, his mother opened the door to a Witness and it would forever change his life.

Richard skillfully mixes heart-rendering stories and humorous accounts as he details what life was like in his home and in his church (Hall) as his family follows the rigorous dictates of the religion. He tells of a mother obsessed with the religion and determined that her son follow a path that would someday make him a Jehovah's Witness leader.

Ironically, a few days after I read Richard's extremely educational memoir, I received a knock on my door. There stood a lady with her 10-year old granddaughter. She gave me a pamphlet proclaiming The Truth. And thanks to Richard's memoir, for the first time in my life I understood who was knocking at my door.

Esther Royer Ayers, author of Rolling Down Black Stockings
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on August 21, 2013
Richard Kelly's memoir about growing up in a Jehovah's Witness household is told with clarity, compassion, and honesty. Particularly moving are his memories of childhood. These scenes are described realistically, from the viewpoint of a child who is intelligent and aware, yet in no way can comprehend why or how he is being religiously exploited. Kelly's parents are completely taken up by their zealous faith and have little understanding or care as to how their beliefs and practices are harming their son. They are not presented as bad people but as self-absorbed, as religious zealots tend to be. The clear message that Kelly seems to be sending is this: Regardless of how meaningful a belief system might be to parents' lives, they owe it to their children to question whether those same beliefs are fulfilling thier children's needs. And, even more importantly, those parents should question whether their beliefs are enabling them to abuse and neglect the boys and girls for whom they are responsible.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on April 11, 2008
Richard Kelly's story of growing up in a Jehovahs Witness home will take some of you deep into your own conflict of faith. He brings this "one true faith" alive through the eyes of first an awe-struck child, then a coming-of-age young man who must hide his true feelings. You won't be able to put this book down.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on November 28, 2008
Today is the day after Thanksgiving and I read Mama's Club for 5 1/2 hours before finally going to sleep around one am. I was totally engrossed, fascinated and scared, but the book held me in its grip until I had read the last word.

According to Jehovah, 1914 was the end of time. Am I then just a spirit? If only 144,000 can go to heaven, where will I be going, to purgatory, or to hell?

Richard Kelly's book should be read by all, not only for its subject matter, but for its fascinating entrée into what its like to be a member of Mama's Club.

Now I am not just a bridge opponent, but also a fan. KEEP WRITING!

Chi Newman
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