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Holy Ghost Girl: A Memoir by Donna M.…

Holy Ghost Girl: A Memoir

by Donna M. Johnson

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This was one of those books that I wasn't sure what I might get from the author. I've been reading a lot of memoirs lately and they're hit and miss for the most part. The celebrity memoirs are stories staggered and mish-mashed together. The memoirs of regular folks are even more hit or miss.

The Glass Castle was written so well. Not my favorite book because of the content, the voice of the author is so clearly defined. She's a true author, capturing scenes and moments with beautiful detail even when the scene was hard to read.

On the other hand the memoir Escape was not written by a "real" writer, but the woman who's story it is and a ghost writer. Overall, it's not so well told. There were no cleverly written descriptions; it was just the facts, ma'am.

I'm comparing these two novels to Holy Ghost Girl because Glass Castle is similar in it's experience of children growing up with nontraditional parents; and Escape because of it's relation to extreme religious beliefs.

I got lucky, Holy Ghost Girl was written with clarity and actual storytelling, something that Escape clearly did not have. We see, through the eyes of the child Donna Johnson, the confusing world of traveling tent revivalist. Town to town, giving over to the charisma of a man who believed he was Jesus. The pull to want to please and be "good" but also to fit in, doubting some of the things that went on under the tent.

Most of the book is young Donna, but we do get to see teenage Donna who struggles with her faith going back to the fold of Brother Terrell and then leaving.

It's a wonderfully written book about faith, doubt, revelation. It's not just a tale of scandal but how it was on the inside, but not so sober or tell-all as Escape, enough easy storytelling like Glass Castle.

This is a beautiful book if someone likes well written memoirs, interest in a look inside a religious order, and would like to read about the ups and downs of faith. ( )
  wendithegray | May 1, 2017 |
I found this fascinating in places and it certainly offered an interesting perspective on the "faith healer" phenomena. Were people really healed? How could they have been when the "prophet" was so flawed? Mostly I left this story with a lot of sadness for the people that this man hurt and a renewed conviction that people should not put their faith in other human beings but in God alone, He is the only one who will never disappoint us.

The author was just three years old when her mother signed on as the organist of tent revivalist David Terrell, and before long her family was part of the hugely popular evangelical preacher's inner circle. She often questioned the strange things that she observed, but the adults in her life always quashed her questions and encouraged her to trust in the anointing of Brother Terrell. As she grew older she became more and more aware of the illicit relationship between her mother and Brother Terrell, and she became resentful of the secretive lifestyle they were forced to adopt
Donna eventually left the Terrellites, despite the strain this placed upon her relationship with her mother and siblings. Eventually Terrell is imprisoned and Donna is able to come to terms with her past and find her own way to a path that seems right to her. ( )
  debs4jc | Mar 7, 2016 |
Highly recommend. Good book, great narrator - the author describes life as a child growing up in a super religious tent-revival church run by David Terrell - she's very even-handed in her descriptions of life, though personally I think she was too nice. ( )
  marshapetry | Sep 16, 2015 |
meh. it reminds me of my childhood in some ways and the opposite in others. I thought it would be moving but instead, it's just sad; sad that people treat their children poorly "in the Lord's name". ( )
  AAM_mommy | Jun 2, 2014 |
Donna Johnson's father left the family when she was very young. Donna, her mother Carolyn, and her little brother Gary join up with a tent revivalist, David Terrell, where Carolyn plays organ.

The children are placed in the care of Brother Terrell's wife, Betty Ann who has two children by Brother Terrell during the revivals and are rowdy and full of mischief. The story tells of growing up poor in the tents even sleeping on the chairs until wee hours of the night and traveling from town to town living in rented houses and eating scraps of food, sometimes fasting as well.

The revivals are full of exorcisms, healings, and speaking in tongues and at times, Brother Terrell has to fight off the KKK as the story is set during the civil rights movement mostly in Mississippi and Alabama.

As the evangelist grows larger and traveling is more intense Donna and Gary are sent off to live with whoever her momma can dump them on, sometimes abusive people. Eventually, the scandal of the affair breaks and Brother Terrell moves them into their own house where he makes regular visits and they even have more kids together but later on Carolyn finds out that Brother Terrell is having other affairs and has other "families".

In my opinion, the book was a little slow, but I kept at it as it is interesting and there is a surprise in the end but I'll leave that to you dear readers to find out for yourselves. I find it fascinating how Brother Terrell can heal people through the power of faith in the Lord and he does. He makes the blind to see and the crippled to walk right in front of thousands of people and people would come from near and far and line up to be healed. I don't know if it's true or not, but what Donna makes very clear is that the Lord speaks through him even though he is a sinner and cheater and a liar.

The book was published in 2011 by Gotham books. ( )
  clayhollow | Apr 8, 2014 |
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For Amber and Kirk and my brothers and sisters
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Donna, I don't know if you're coming to the funeral, but I heard Daddy's gonna try to raise Randall from the dead.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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A compassionate, humorous story of faith, betrayal, and coming of age on the evangelical sawdust trail.

She was just three years old when her mother signed on as the organist of tent revivalist David Terrell, and before long, Donna Johnson was part of the hugely popular evangelical preacher's inner circle. At seventeen, she left the ministry for good, with a trove of stranger-than-fiction memories. A homecoming like no other, Holy Ghost Girl brings to life miracles, exorcisms, and faceoffs with the Ku Klux Klan. And that's just what went on under the tent.

As Terrell became known worldwide during the 1960s and '70s, the caravan of broken-down cars and trucks that made up his ministry evolved into fleets of Mercedes and airplanes. The glories of the Word mixed with betrayals of the flesh and Donna's mother bore Terrell's children in one of the several secret households he maintained. Thousands of followers, dubbed "Terrellites" by the press, left their homes to await the end of the world in cultlike communities. Jesus didn't show, but the IRS did, and the prophet/healer went to prison.

Recounted with deadpan observations and surreal detail, Holy Ghost Girl bypasses easy judgment to articulate a rich world in which the mystery of faith and human frailty share a surprising and humorous coexistence.
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A compassionate, humorous story of faith, betrayal, and coming of age on the evangelical sawdust trail. Johnson was just three years old when her mother signed on as the organist for ten revivalist David Terrell. She brings to life miracles, exorcisms, and face-offs with the Ku Klux Klan-- and that's just what went on under the tent.… (more)

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