Not Without My Sister

Not Without My Sister: The True Story of Three Girls Violated and Betrayed by Those They Trusted, by Kristina Jones, Celeste Jones and Juliana Buhring

This book is not for the faint of heart. There were times when this book had me very near tears as I imagined the horror and loneliness these three girls went through (and hundreds other children as well). I cannot wrap my head around the fact that this is a true story about actual people who allow these terrible things to happen.

I've been reading about cults as research for a novel and it is not fun stuff. I'm trying to figure out how ordinary, non insane people decide to throw their lot in with psychos and pedophiles. Still unsure of this now but there is no doubt that this is a very real thing.

The Children of God cult (now know as The Family International, and shockingly still in practice what is wrong with people) was founded in the '60s by David Berg promoting the hippie surfer lifestyle in California. It was all about free love and really tapped into the antiwar socialism of the time. Communes were developed all over the world and people were recruited by questionable means to join their love tribe. As far as I can tell, David Berg is a pedophile and he encouraged and essentially forced children to have sex with adults as a part of their tenets. It is just the most horrible kind of awful I just threw up in my mouth.

Kristina and Celeste Jones are sisters, and Juliana Buhring is their half-sister through their father. They grew up being abandoned and molested by every single one of the responsible people in their life. They were beaten, tortured and raped. And were made to think that this was done out of love. It makes me so sad to think about. Juliana's story especially hit me hard because she has very vivid descriptions of her time when she was about my daughter's age. Trust me when I tell you that I've been uber protective of my kids over the past few weeks while reading all this.

The whole story is so shocking that you can't put the book down. I suppose my one critique is that Not Without My Sisters suffers from what a lot of memoirs suffer from and that is the lack of a distinct plot line. I would have loved to see one of the sisters storming a commune to rescue the others, bringing them out of the darkness into the light of a normal childhood. But life doesn't work like that. The sisters drifted around the world, in and out of the cult, sometimes abandoning each other. The one focus they all seem to have is they really hate their dad. I like that they spoke out, and continue to speak out, against the horrific cult they were born into.

A compelling read, but a disturbing one for sure. I plan on making sure my kids are aware of cults and their recruitment procedures, so that they never fall into a trap like that. I need to go give them another (completely appropriate) hug right now.