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An unflinching and courageous memoir exposing one of the world’s most infamous cults is featured in this week's Mirror Book Club.
It is followed by a look at three of the best paperback memoirs out now – as astronaut Tim Peake, TV favourite Phillip Schofield and actor and QI veteran Alan Davies all put pen to paper about their extraordinary lives.
And Jenn Ashworth’s haunting fifth novel is a revelatory portrait of a marriage.
For all that and more – read on. And don't forget to join the Mirror Book Club.
Rebel, by Faith Morgan
Hodder & Stoughton, £16.99
It was a question from her 15-year-old son that gave Faith Morgan the courage to look back at a childhood and adolescence she had spent years trying to forget. “Mum, were you in a sex cult?” he asked, as she drove him to school.
Her son had found her diary and newspaper cuttings revealing that she had grown up in the Children of God, a notorious “free love” cult also known as The Family. It was established by David Berg in 1960s California and, over the next few decades, spread across the world.
What is your view? Have your say in the comment section
David Berg founded the free love cult in which Faith Morgan grew up
Berg preached a doomsday message of imminent apocalypse, but it was his twisted teaching about sex that brought the cult into the public eye.
Faith was born into The Family and her early childhood was spent in Costa Rica. However, Berg’s devotees were expected to travel around the world evangelising, so Faith and her parents were never in one place for long, moving between communities in India, Greece, Mexico and the UK.
Faith managed to break free of the cult at the age of 19. Now living in the Home Counties, she decided to write about her experiences to try to make sense of them, and to shine a light on its treatment of children.
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The children of God in Glebe, 1976
To protect the identities of all concerned, Faith Morgan is a pseudonym and the book leaves some questions unanswered, but the story she tells is a shocking one.
She writes: “At the heart of what was most disturbing about the activities of The Family was the complete disregard for the children within it… we were there to be used.”
She grew up in the late 1970s and 80s and says that the children were often cruelly disciplined by visiting “aunties and uncles”.
Berg’s main means of communication to his followers was via letters. It was through these that Faith learned about the darkest side of his beliefs.
Sex, or “sharing”, she says, was encouraged between cult members, including children. She recalls staying in one commune where a “sharing” rota was pinned up in the kitchen beside a list of daily chores.
Rebel, by Faith Morgan and Ghosted, by Jenn Ashworth
Women were encouraged go to “flirty fishing” (attracting wealthy donors with sex) while teenagers were expected to “love up” with each other and with adults.
When Faith confronts her father as an adult, he admits that while there were some “mistakes along the way”, he was “winning souls for Jesus”.
Faith’s fury at the terrible abuse suffered by children who grew up in the cult blazes through each page. This is an unflinching and courageous memoir, exposing one of the world’s most infamous cults. It’s an inspiring, if at times upsetting, read.
Faith ends on a hopeful note, saying that she is now able to “live and love in peace” – something she most definitely deserves.
by MERNIE GILMORE
Ghosted, by Jenn Ashworth
There are disappearances of all kinds in Ashworth’s haunting fifth novel, which begins when Laurie’s husband Mark vanishes.
The couple had humdrum morning sex, he offered to make her the usual cup of tea to help with her usual hangover, but then he left the flat without taking his wallet and keys, and quietly vanished.
It takes Laurie five weeks to notify the police. Unable to face up to the situation, she initially attempts to carry on as normal.
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She visits her father who’s in the grip of dementia and speaks to his carer Olena, whom she suspects of stealing his money, and she continues to turn up to her cleaning job.
Laurie spends the evenings drinking herself into oblivion to mask the cold, eerie emptiness that seems to seep under the closed door of the spare bedroom.
But when the police investigate Mark’s disappearance, and Mark’s mother travels from the Algarve to help search for her missing son, Laurie is forced to confront some unpalatable truths.
There’s her out-of-control drinking, her anger, her refusal to get help for the couple’s shared trauma, her jokey dismissal of emotions that Mark found hard to reveal.
On his side, there was an out-of-character altercation at work, an online presence on conspiracy theory websites, and a gradual withdrawal from Laurie.
It’s a revelatory portrait of a marriage. Although Laurie is acerbic and funny, this is an immeasurably sad read, aching with the unacknowledged grief of a complicated couple who have lost more than they can say.
by EITHNE FARRY
Three of the best paperback memoirs Limitless, by Tim Peake
Limitless by Tim Peake and Just Ignore Him by Alan Davies
In 2016, Peake became the first British astronaut to complete a spacewalk at the International Space Station.
Teenage Peake joined the Army Air Corps, becoming a helicopter pilot and serving in Bosnia and Afghanistan.
Then his wife spotted an ad for astronauts, and he was one of six chosen from 8,400 candidates.
Full of escapades, Peake’s autobiography reads like a Boys’ Own adventure.
By EMMA LEE-POTTER
Life’s What You Make It, by Phillip Schofield
Michael Joseph, £8.99
Life’s What You Make It, by Phillip Schofield
The presenter recalls his broadcasting career, and fans of This Morning will love stories of 18 years on the show, especially his partnership with Holly Willoughby (“the sister I never had”).
The first half of this memoir gallops through his life and career, the second is an account of his decision to come out. Candid, brave and highly readable.
By EMMA LEE-POTTER
Just Ignore Him, by Alan Davies
In one of the saddest books I have read, Davies reveals he was sexually abused by his bullying father.
His mother died of leukaemia when he was six, and here he desperately attempts to reconnect with the woman he loved so much but barely remembers.
There have always been many reasons to admire Alan Davies, now we can add extraordinary courage.
By JAKE KERRIDGE
Join the Mirror Book Club
Join us in reading our brand-new book of the month – Three Women by Lisa Taddeo.
You could win one of 20 copies at facebook.com/groups/mirrorbookclub
For nearly a decade, Taddeo embedded herself with three ordinary women to write this immersive account of their erotic lives and longings.
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We meet Lina, whose husband wouldn’t touch her; Sloane, whose husband likes to watch her have sex with other men and women; and Maggie whose relationship with her teacher made her a pariah.
It’s been an international bestseller.