In this personal account, Lilia Tarawa exposes the shocking secrets of the cult, with its rigid rules and oppressive control of women. She describes her fear when her family questioned Gloriavale's beliefs and practices.
When her parents fled with their children, Lilia was forced to make a desperate choice: to stay or to leave. No matter what she chose, she would lose people she loved.
In the outside world, Lilia struggled. Would she be damned to hell for leaving? How would she learn to navigate this strange place called 'the world'? And would she ever find out the truth about the criminal convictions against her grandfather?
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Tarawa’s account is gripping. Though she wrote the book as an adult, she excelled at reconstructing events of her life from the perspective of her maturity level at the time of the events she described. One cannot help cheering her on throughout the book.
That said, the narrative is a little one-dimensional: A good thing to share with a therapist, but for a wider population, a little narcissistic. Everything we know about others Tarawa grew up with is based on Tarawa’s experience of them. It would be nice if Tarawa interviewed and researched others she encountered while growing up, e.g. her grandparents, family members, and friends (both from the community, and from outside), and wove their perspectives into the narrative:
How did others experience Gloriavale? How did others experience staying there (or leaving)? And what perspective can others offer about Tarawa? Answering these questions would infuse more objectivity, colour, and dimension to the story.
Also, Tarawa writes of her life as if the only bad people she experienced in the world were in the community where she grew up. She writes of her naiveté when entering the “real world,” yet never seems to wind up on a bad date, or working for a cruel boss. Seems a little too good to be true...