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Girl at the End of the World: My Escape from Fundamentalism in Search of Faith with a Future Paperback – March 18, 2014
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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 RageAgainsttheMinivan.com
“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 ToLoveHonorandVacuum.com
“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.
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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! But many of the things that bothered Elizabeth about her (modesty codes, preoccupation with being and converting the "right" kind of Christian, End Times) are things I questioned myself. It terrifies me that I could identify so much with the values of this cult. I was a standard evangelical in high school. What does it say that so much of my evangelical culture has parallels in a cult?
I thought I had moved away from the evangelical fundamentalism of my youth, but reading this book brought all of that back. All the memories of watching what I wore and struggling with what my place in the world was going to be. I live in LA now. I watch Game of Thrones and listen to Macklemore. I go to a church that is in many ways the complete opposite of my high school church. Elizabeth's fight to break free from fundamentalism has shown me how difficult it is to completely move on. I didn't expect this book to have such an impact on me. But I'm glad it did.
I read the whole thing in one sitting. Elizabeth's story of survival in a cult is fascinating, heartbreaking, funny, and well-written. I often think of cults as a rural, old-fashioned idea. Elizabeth's story takes place in a city (one that I lived in and went to high school in, in fact). She went to public high school, was an honors student, wrote for the newspaper...she was me, except my grandfather wasn't a cult-leader.
Part of the appeal is the "juicy" details of life inside a fundamentalist cult (and the book delivers those details), but Elizabeth's questions and eventual journey out of the cult are just as important and compelling. I've read her blog for a few years now, but reading her book gave me a whole new appreciation for what she means when she says the cult is still inside of her and she is still recovering.
Bravo, Elizabeth, for writing such an honest and important memoir.