- Cult Following: My Escape and Return to the Children of God, by Bexy Cameron. Manilla Press, $29.99.
Who, in God's name (literally), would consign a daughter, or any child, to 12 months of silence?
The child, in this case a 10-year-old girl, now the author of this book, is forbidden to speak to anyone for a year, or for anyone to speak to her. She is not to make or receive any eye contact or personal interaction. This is cruelty beyond understanding.
How could any sane person think this was an appropriate punishment for a minor infraction of ludicrous rules? What so takes over the minds of cultists that they will applaud physical abuse of the most violent kind, sexual abuse of minors - though, thankfully, not of our author - and mental torture that is as exquisite as it is abhorrent?
This is a question Cult Following cannot answer. In some senses this is a book about parenting.
Readers may think of their own childhoods, the good and the bad, and some may think of their own parenting.
We may read many books about atrocious parenting, of ignoring sexual abuse, of abusive relationships, of parental addiction, and we grieve.
Bexy Cameron is tossed out of the Children of God at 15 years of age. She has lived in India, Mauritius, Africa, but mostly in Britain, in several Children of God homes there.
But she knows nothing about the world she enters, about money, a job, or rudimentary aspects of living.
Her parents simply abandon her when she spectacularly takes her life into her own hands, as does every adult she has ever known in this closed cult.
Later, as a successful and skilled adult in a rare meeting with her parents, she wants to discover how they could have so willingly destroyed her childhood.
Cameron is humiliated by her failure to confront them. It is a grim scene full of hurt for the author and for the reader.
She travels across the United States looking at other cults, 10 of them in all, but this must be the tip of the iceberg in a nation befuddled by weird cults.
She is searching for answers but she finds as many problems as she had encountered in her own life.
It is a deeply disturbing picture of criminality disguising itself as the way of the Lord.
Strength of character, profound support from siblings and friends, and a final confrontation with her parents brings Bexy Cameron into a much better place.
The final chapters of this important book are cathartic and affirming. While Cameron survived how many other damaged children succumbed?
Though ultimately uplifting, this is not happy reading.