Thrown Overboard by Scientology and Other Life Overboards by Debbie Norwitz

Debbie Norwitz’s memoir is a tribute to her life which has been, by all accounts, varied and full of challenges. The idea that she has gathered together all of her memories with a view to empowering others is one of the strengths of this book.

Norwitz has an engaging writing style which invites you into her confidence – she shares the most intimate details of her life here, including embarrassing incidences, sexual encounters and the deterioration of her relationships whether with partners or family members. There is humour throughout as well as self-reflection and a self-deprecating view of herself combined with how far she has come from the timid girl of her young years.

The first part of the book is highly enjoyable where she describes her life as a young girl and her coming-of-age. I found the sections devoted to her time in Scientology most interesting, in what she explained about the religion as well as her experiences within it and I learned a lot that I did not know before about its beliefs and practices. This represented the most interesting part of the book for me, which was well-paced and informative.

I was looking forward to the latter sections of the book where Norwitz describes her solo trip around Europe, backpacking as a lady in her 50s but for me, the memoir drifted a bit here and formatting errors in the manuscript made some parts less easy to read. I loved the inclusion of her original photos from the trip but felt like it read more as an itinerary rather than anecdotal retellings. There were some experiences where she met people and had conversation but they are discussed generally and apart from the odd incident of danger or upset, I think that the recount became loose and fragmentary. It could be that the detail was difficult to recover sufficiently in the passage of years between the experiences and the writing about them but it meant that, for me, my attention drifted somewhat.

That being said, there is much that is interesting here and it is worth picking up as it is quite entertaining for the most part.

This review was first published on Reedsy Discovery where I was privileged to read it as an ARC.

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