Not Without My Sister

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A book review of Not Without My Sister: The true story of three girls violated and betrayed by Kristina, Celeste and Juliana

A book review of Not Without My Sister: The true story of three girls violated and betrayed by Kristina, Celeste and Juliana

Stars: *****

Harper Element (2012)
434 pages

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Summary: The bestselling, devastating account of three sisters torn apart, abused and exploited at the hands of a community that robbed them of their childhood. It reveals three lives, separate but entwined, that have experienced unspeakable horror, unrelenting loyalty and unforgettable courage.

From as early as three years old, Juliana, Celeste and Kristina were separated from their parents and physically and sexually abused by their ‘guardians’ in the infamous religious cult known as the Children of God. They were made to watch and mimic orgies, received love letters and sexual advances from men old enough to be their grandfather, and were forced into abusive relationships. They were denied access to formal schooling and medical care, had to busk on the streets, beg for money, and were mercilessly beaten for ‘crimes’ as unpredictable as reading an encyclopedia.

Finally, unable to live with the guilt of what had happened to her children, their mother escaped with Kristina and her younger siblings, cutting herself off from Celeste in a bid to save her remaining children. Desperate to save her sister, Kristina eventually began a search to find Celeste, but it would be many years until Celeste found the courage to escape, wanting freedom and a different future for the child she was carrying. The suicide of one of their sisters drove Juliana to exit the group a couple of years later.

Now the three sisters have finally come together to reveal in full and horrific detail their existence within the Children of God cult. Their stories reveal a community spread throughout the world and its legacy of anorexia, depression, drug abuse, suicide and even murder. Lives are ripped apart and painstakingly mended with a shared strength that finally enabled the sisters to free themselves from the shadows of their past.

Not Without My Sister

I need to preface this review by saying that it feels wrong to say the I give the book 5 stars. The atrocities that these girls and hundreds more suffered make it feel wrong to say the book was “great.” What happened was not great. That the book had to be written in the first place, is not great. I don’t think the storytelling could be good or not good. It’s just that horrifying.

If you want to know more about cults, specifically the Children of God cult, than in that regard, this is a good book. But be warned. HUGE TRIGGER WARNING. For the whole book. Specifically about sexual abuse and incest but also physical abuse.

The book goes back and forth between the three girls point of view. This is important because although they are sisters, they were almost never kept in the same home. It was a little confusing at times to remember who was talking but it wasn’t a big deal.

I can’t believe a cult like this exists.

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About Kathleen

I've been a nonfiction lover for as long as I can remember. I love children's nonfiction as well and love to share my knowledge and the books I gained them from, with the world. I wish more people would give nonfiction a chance.