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Beyond Belief, Jenna Miscavage Hill (2013)

I love secrets. Boy oh boy do I love secrets.  That is one of my favorite parts of my job, that I get to learn all kinds of secrets.  I have to keep them all locked up in my head, but the fun part is knowing them in the first place.  In Beyond Belief: Inside Scientology and My Harrowing Escape, Jenna Miscavage Hill (niece of David Miscavage, the leader of the Church of Scientology) shares all the secrets.  She has escaped, she is mad, and she is not holding back.

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I went into this book with my sole source of education on Scientology being that South Park episode.  I expected there to be tons of strange religious ritual and extraterrestrial worship, but it turns out that life in the core of Scientology is more about manipulation, punishment and power.  What I found to be the most shocking is how families in the Sea Org (the core of the church, so to speak) were so often split up, with wives, husbands, and children each in separate states or countries, and how by that point Scientology was so embedded within them, that they did not question it.  I know if someone told me that I was being ordered to move away from my family for some undefined period of time, it would not go over too well.

I read a fair number of these terrible ordeal kinds of autobiographies, and it’s unfortunate that in terms of writing quality, they frequently have the same flat, conversational tone.  There are plenty of writers who pen autobiographies who are magnificently skilled and produce amazing work– Jeannette Walls, Cheryl Strayed, David Sedaris and Augusten Burroughs to name a few.  But when I see an autobiography on the shelf that is written “with the assistance of” some journalist or another, I know that the story itself better be full of gripping twists and turns, because the writing itself isn’t going to do much for me.  While this book likely will not win any literary awards, it was interesting to get a glimpse inside the strange and secretive world of Scientology.  I can’t imagine this book interesting everyone, but if you’ve got a nebby, gossipy, curious side to you, it wouldn’t hurt to pick it up.

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