Eileen Williams’ book about her time in the Unification Church is a memoir centred on her experiences within a faith environment, which was controversial and viewed as a cult. Known colloquially, and rather derogatorily, as the Moonies, the church gained momentum in the 1970s and it is from this time, that Williams relates her memories.
I always like to read an insider view of things, events, and organisations that have been deemed controversial as our perception is generally skewed by the media and, therefore, a full picture is not always visible. Saying that, any memoir is also bound to be biased as it is a personal viewpoint and recollection and may have an agenda that underlies the writing of it.
I did not get this impression from reading Eileen Williams’ memoir. She, of course, talks about the church but my overriding impression is this is her story: a great chunk of her younger life was taken up with the church but her memoir is about her and her struggle with the ideas with which she is presented, and how she processes these in light of her own instincts and feelings about her faith, her upbringing, and what she knows and perceives about the world around her. What you have is a story about a girl who lacks guidance and in seeking a path through life, finds herself in an environment which, to the rest of America, is a threat and something to be derided and feared.
There is a lot of self-examination in the book, philosophising with the experience of age and life. It is an upbeat retelling with humour and many references to pop songs and TV to make it relatable. But there are dark moments here and one in particular, is retold in a style which very much makes it clear that this is something that is still difficult to confront.
There is no doubt that it is a strange life to have chosen for most people but Williams’ book is full of humanity and faith and how these two things can shape people into who they are. She is an assured narrator, balanced and thoughtful and whilst I sometimes found the depictions of her nomadic existence a little repetitive, the buoyancy and liveliness of her writing, the depth of her discussion and a need to know the outcome of her life afterwards kept me interested and stimulated.
I reviewed this book as an ARC. This is an unbiased representation of my opinion of the book.