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In the Days of Rain: A Daughter, a Father, a…

In the Days of Rain: A Daughter, a Father, a Cult

by Rebecca Stott

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Rebecca Stott was born into a cult. So was her father. He was a high ranking official in the church called the Exclusive Brethren. An End of Times cult, they felt they had to purify themselves so they would be bodily taken up when the Rapture occurred. The rules became more restrictive through the years; not only did they restrict all information sources to the Bible and their own publications, but they limited contact with outsiders to almost nothing. Women were to be seen and not heard. Then they started attacking their own members, trying to force confessions of sin from them; they removed the victim’s family members from the house and isolated them. Some committed suicide. Businesses and jobs were lost.

Growing up in this cult, Stott lived a life of fear, which seems to have been common among members. Fear that she could not live up to the strict standards of the cult- which of course she equated with the strict standards of God. But when things got too bad (the church leader, J.T. Junior, who was instituting all these rules, emerged as an alcoholic and blatant womanizer, going so far as to be fondling women’s breasts in front of others), her father broke with the church. He was the last member to have been allowed to go to college and had read ‘worldly’ books. Sadly, his education did not save him from folly; he became a chronic gambler and womanizer and left his wife trying to provide for the family.

The idea for the book began when her father, Roger, found out he was dying. He wanted help in finishing his autobiography, which he had started years before. Rebecca set out to record their talking sessions, and found that while he could talk about his early life, her father could not get past the years when he, as part of the Brethren, had led interrogations of members. Something in his mind could never get past what he had done, no matter how he tried to reconcile the person who had done that with the person who had sought to do the right thing.

One part of the book tells us about the Brethren movement itself; another about her family’s part in it. Then there is her father’s life; and then her own, as she sought to outgrow the philosophy she’d grown up with. While a lot of the writing is very good, it is in places disjointed, switching between her father’s life and hers. I found myself confused in places. I also found myself getting bored with the details of the Brethren’s history. While I feel this book is important to understanding how cults work and how people become coerced and dependent in them, I feel it could have used a lot more editing. 3.5 stars out of five. ( )
  lauriebrown54 | Jul 4, 2017 |
I received a copy of this memoir from the publisher via NetGalley. I requested it after reading a review in the Guardian and am glad I did so.

The author tells the story of her childhood growing up in the Exclusive Brethren church, where her father (and her grandfather) was a preacher and a priest. As a result of the increasingly extreme teachings of the leader of the worldwide Exclusive Brethren during the 1960s, the denomination became more or less a cult. Then, after scandalous sexual behaviour and alcoholism on the part of the leader, the church imploded and Rebecca's father took them out of the Brethren church altogether.

The memoir is written after the death of Rebecca's father. He has been unable to finish his planned memoir and Rebecca has felt obliged to take over the task. For the most part I found this an interesting read, and at times it was fascinating. The author manages to portray her father with affection, but without glossing over his (sometimes appalling) behaviour.

I learnt a lot about Brethren theology and the position of women in the church. It is astonishing to me that, even when more or less everything was forbidden, alcohol was still allowed. The author was very good at describing how confused and adrift she felt after the adults in her life turned away from what she had been told was absolute truth.

On the other hand, I was frustrated by the limits of what the memoir revealed. I really wanted to hear Rebecca's mother's side of the story and how what happened affected her siblings. What was the stepmother's story? What had her father truly believed? Had he never believed? If so, what about the "Mere Christianity" conversion experience? If he had once believed, was it merely in the specific teachings of the leader? Why did he never join another church, as Rebecca's mother did?

The section dealing with the downfall of the church leader was told partly in a transcript of a portion of a mad drunken speech and partly by witness statements. Although I had no sympathy for him or his behaviour, including the transcript seemed underhand in some way - it made me feel uneasy. The witness accounts about Mrs Ker, on the other hand were so sterile as to be unenlightening. What were the witnesses thinking? What was their plan?

My ARC has several typos etc, which I hope will be picked up. ( )
  pgchuis | Jul 1, 2017 |
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