Girl at the End of the World is a memoir by Elizabeth Esther, a woman who grew up in a fundamentalist branch of Christianity founded by her grandfather. It’s essentially the story of what happens when enthusiastic followers of Jesus (her grandparents were influenced by the Jesus Movement) slowly shift from the faith that drew them in and get wrapped up in rules and behavioral codes and the strict dictates of one charismatic, unaccountable leader.
The storytelling here is so good. The author masterfully shares the scenes of her childhood without bitterness – towards God, faith, or her family. It’s impressive, and the book is one of the best I’ve read in this genre. I was surprised by how relatable this story is. I grew up as far away from a faith based cult as one can imagine, and yet I feel like I want to sit down with the author, pour a glass of wine, and talk about the amazing ways God works in our lives. She really succeeds in making readers feel like friends.
The story is divided into three sections: her childhood, her experience breaking out and trying to navigate mainstream culture, and then her process of figuring out a new way to engage with God outside of her strict, abusive upbringing. I loved it all. Her descriptions of her childhood are so vivid, I felt like I was right there (which was difficult at times – there are some tough moments). Her take on first encountering Oprah Winfrey’s show and how quickly television commercials stirred up a dissatisfaction with her life she’d never felt before is a great reminder of how much we’re being manipulated by what we watch. And there’s a real sweetness to how God pursues her as she and her husband seek a new way to raise their own family.
Note: I received a copy of this manuscript from the publisher in exchange for a review.